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Worth of Sigmoidoscopy Screening for Colon Cancer Still Uncertain
Date:6/1/2009

Some reduction in mortality rates found, but experts say more follow-up needed

MONDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Patients checked for colon cancer with a procedure called flexible sigmoidoscopy showed no significant reduction in risk over seven years, but the screening did seem to lower the risk of dying from the disease, Norwegian researchers report.

There are several methods available for colon cancer screening including colonoscopy, which involves a look at the whole colon and the removal of any precancerous or cancerous polyps. In addition, there is flexible sigmoidoscopy, which uses a flexible endoscope to examine the large intestine only. There are also noninvasive tests such as fecal occult blood sampling and CT colonoscopy.

"Flexible sigmoidoscopy screening looks promising, but the effect on a population level appears less than expected and further follow-up is required," said lead researcher Dr. Geir Hoff, from the Cancer Registry of Norway in Oslo.

These are the first results from the trial, and it may be that seven years is too short a time to see the true effect of screening, Hoff said.

"The results suggest that flexible sigmoidoscopy screening may be a very efficient way of screening with an aim of reducing mortality and the risk of getting colorectal cancer, but the effect may be less than anticipated and certainly occurs later than expected in the follow-up period," Hoff added.

Until now, there have been results from randomized trials only for one colorectal cancer screening modality -- screening for blood in the stools, Hoff said. "Still, colonoscopy is recommended in several European countries and the U.S.," he added.

The report is published in the June 1 online edition of the BMJ, to coincide with the scheduled presentation of the findings Monday at the Digestive Diseases Week meeting in Chicago.

For the study, Hoff's team randomly assigned almost 56
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