5 December 2014

People who screen through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program are less likely to die from bowel cancer than other patients, according to new research.

The report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows people who did not take part in the screening program were 15 percent more likely to die from bowel cancer within four to six years.

The researchers said this is primarily because cancers were detected earlier in people who screened through the program.

“The greatest contributing factor to the reduced risk of death from bowel cancer was the finding that, on average, screen-detected bowel cancers were at a less advanced stage at diagnosis,” said researcher, Justin Harvey.

The study questioned 22,051 people diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006-2008. A total of 4,327 had been invited to screen through the national program when they turned 50, 55 or 65.

Another 17,724 in the study were people of similar age who had not been invited to participate in the Bowel Cancer Screening Program during the three-year period.

Researchers found the risk of dying from bowel cancer was more than 2.3 times higher for patients who were not part of the screening program.

These findings show how crucial screening is for the early detection of bowel cancer, and follow a study in New South Wales released last month, which showed bowel cancer incidents are dramatically lower in the four years following screening.

The study by the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University showed those who screened for bowel cancer had a 44 percent lower risk of developing the disease in the four years after screening than those who had not taken the test.

Bowel cancer is one of the most commonly occurring internal cancers and the second most common cause of cancer-related death, after lung cancer.