Boston, MA -- According to a large, long-term study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), 40% of all colorectal cancers might be prevented if people underwent regular colonoscopy screening. The new research also supports existing guidelines that recommend that people with an average risk of colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
The new study helps address previous uncertainty about the effectiveness of colonoscopy in reducing colorectal cancer incidence and mortality -- particularly among people with cancer that originates in the proximal, or upper part of the colon.
The study appears in the September 19, 2013 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Colonoscopy is the most commonly used screening test in the U.S. but there was insufficient evidence on how much it reduces the risk of proximal colon cancer and how often people should undergo the procedure," said Shuji Ogino, co-senior author and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. "Our study provides strong evidence that colonoscopy is an effective technique for preventing cancers of both distal and proximal regions of the colorectum, while sigmoidoscopy alone is insufficient for preventing proximal cancer."
According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 137,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2009, and nearly 52,000 died that year from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the nation.
The researchers analyzed data from 88,902 participants in two long-term studies: the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Based on data from questionnaires that participants filled out every two years between 1988 and 2008, the researchers obtained information on colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy procedures. They documented 1,815 cases of colorectal cancer and 474
|Contact: Marge Dwyer|
Harvard School of Public Health