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Colonoscopy Cuts Advanced Cancer Risk by 70 Percent: Study
Date:3/4/2013

id Doubeni. "There is strong evidence showing the effectiveness of the [fecal occult blood test] when done annually. There is no reason, based on the knowledge we currently have, that you should switch to a colonoscopy if you're getting a FOBT every year," said Doubeni.

If simpler tests are effective, why are patients encouraged to undergo a colonoscopy? "Let me just say there are other factors beyond the evidence that are driving the use of colonoscopy in the U.S.," said Doubeni. "No other country uses colonoscopy for screening purposes as much as the United States, although Germany comes close," he noted.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people 50 to 75 years old be screened for colon cancer in one of three ways: a home fecal occult blood test every year; a sigmoidoscopy every five years combined with a home fecal occult blood test every three years; or a colonoscopy every 10 years.

A colonoscopy examines the inside of the large intestine with a camera-tipped tube. The test enables the physician to remove any precancerous growths -- adenomatous polyps -- which sometimes develop into cancer. Colorectal tumors are a major cause of death from cancer in the United States, with about 137,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, published in the March 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the authors reviewed health records of more than 1,000 average-risk adults between the ages of 55 and 85 who were members in four health management organizations (HMOs).

The researchers identified 474 people with late-stage colon cancer and then looked back 10 years to see if they had been screened for the disease with colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. They compared them to 538 "control" patients and used additional information from state or local tumor registries to see whether there was an association between having had a colonoscopy
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