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NIH study finds sigmoidoscopy reduces colorectal cancer rates
Date:5/21/2012

This release is available in Spanish.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy, a screening test for colorectal cancer that is less invasive and has fewer side effects than colonoscopy, is effective in reducing the rates of new cases and deaths due to colorectal cancer, according to research sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. In a study that spanned almost 20 years, researchers found that overall colorectal cancer mortality (deaths) was reduced by 26 percent and incidence (new cases) was reduced by 21 percent as a result of screening with sigmoidoscopy. These results appeared online, ahead of print, on May 21, 2012, in the New England Journal of Medicine, and were presented at Digestive Disease Week, a scientific conference.

Sigmoidoscopy involves examination of the lower colon using a thin, flexible tube-like instrument, called a sigmoidoscope, to view the anus, rectum, and sigmoid colon (see Figure 1). Sigmoidoscopy has fewer side effects, requires less bowel preparation, and poses a lower risk of bowel perforation (an uncommon event, when the screening instrument pokes a hole in the intestine) than colonoscopy, in which a similarly flexible, but longer, tube is used to view the entire colon.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Previous research has shown that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality can be reduced with a number of screening methods, including fecal occult blood testing (FOBT). However, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are more sensitive than FOBT for detecting polyps (see Figure 2) that may lead to colorectal cancer. Removal of pre-cancerous polyps, which can be
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NIH/National Cancer Institute
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