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Colonoscopy screening every ten years could prevent 40% of colorectal cancers
Date:9/22/2013

deaths from the disease.

They found that both colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy -- which screens for tumors in the distal, or lower part of the colorectum -- were associated with decreased risk of either getting colorectal cancer or dying from it. Only colonoscopy decreased the risk for cancers originating in the proximal colon, but not to the degree of its protective effect against distal colorectal cancers. The researchers suggested that colonoscopy's smaller effect in reducing risk for tumors in the proximal colon might be due in part to molecular or biological differences in those cancers.

Other findings include:

  • The researchers estimated that if all participants in the study had undergone colonoscopies, 40% of colorectal cancers -- including 61% of distal cancers and 22% of proximal cancers -- would have been prevented.

  • Sigmoidoscopy alone is likely insufficient for reducing the incidence or death risk of colorectal cancer that originates in the upper colon.

  • People who get a clean bill of health after a colonoscopy have a significantly reduced risk of colorectal cancer for up to 15 years after the procedure, although the data support repeat screening at shorter intervals among individuals with a personal history of adenoma -- a benign tumor of glandular origin that can become malignant over time -- or a family history of colorectal cancer.

  • Colorectal cancers diagnosed within five years of a colonoscopy had different molecular characteristics compared with cancers diagnosed more than five years after a colonoscopy, and they may be difficult to detect or completely remove.

"Each year, more than 1.2 million people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer worldwide. Our findings could help improve and strengthen the current guidelines for colorectal cancer screening," said Reiko Nishihara, lead author and research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.

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Contact: Marge Dwyer
mhdwyer@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-8416
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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