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Studies Offer More Evidence That Colonoscopy Saves Lives
Date:2/23/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- It's been found that removing precancerous polyps during colonoscopies can prevent deadly malignancies from developing. Now, new long-term research supports the idea that the screening test not only prevents colorectal cancers, but dramatically cuts deaths from the disease.

Analyzing the results of the National Polyp Study -- which followed about 2,600 patients whose precancerous polyps were taken out during colonoscopies for up to 23 years -- researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and colleagues found that this course of action netted a 53 percent drop in colon and rectal cancer mortality compared to deaths expected among similar patients in the general population.

"This is very strong evidence that provides assurance that there is a long-term benefit to removing these polyps," said lead author Ann Zauber, a biostatistician at Sloan-Kettering. "Over more than 20 years, we're getting this very consistent decrease in colon cancer deaths, so that's very exciting."

The study is published Feb. 23 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a related study published in the same issue, researchers from Spain found that fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) -- which uses stool samples to detect the presence of colorectal cancer -- yielded similar detection rates as colonoscopy in finding cancerous lesions. However, colonoscopy detected more advanced polyps than FIT, though more people opted to participate in fecal testing.

Colorectal cancer, the third most common type of malignancy worldwide, is one of the few cancers that can be prevented when screening tests are done properly, experts said. But the invasive and involved nature of colonoscopy -- during which the bowel is viewed with a camera after a day-long bowel cleanse -- seems to deter about half of Americans who should be
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