Healthy living

Screening kits cut bowel cancer deaths by a quarter

Screening kits cuts bowel cancer deaths by a quarter Home test kits get results

Screening for bowel cancer using DIY kits can cut deaths by more than a quarter, research has found.

Researchers found that bowel cancer deaths were cut by 27 per cent among people who took part in a screening programme in Scotland compared with those who did not.

More than 370,000 people aged 50 to 69 from three of Scotland's 14 health boards were invited to take part in the study, before a national programme was introduced.

All were sent a kit in the post containing a faecal occult blood test (FOBt), which detects traces of hidden blood in stool samples, which might be an early sign of bowel cancer. The kit, with a small stool sample, is then sent by the user to a lab to be analysed. If any traces of blood are detected, further tests may be needed.

The study, funded by the Scottish Government Health Department, is the first to show the full impact of using the FOBt in a population-wide screening programme, the researchers said.

The results from the screening group were then compared with a control group of the same size from health boards not taking part in the study but had similar bowel cancer death rates.

Among those invited for screening, there was a 10 per cent reduction in bowel cancer deaths compared with those not invited.

However, 40 per cent of those invited to take part in screening did not return the kits. When the researchers looked at the results of those who had completed the cancer test, the reduction in bowel cancer deaths rose to 27 per cent.

The study findings were presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Conference held in Liverpool this week.

Study author Professor Robert Steele, based at the Bowel Screening Research Centre in Dundee, said: "For the first time, we can see the effects of a FOBt-based colorectal cancer screening programme in the real world of the NHS."

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK - around 40,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK, and around 16,000 die from it. However, if diagnosed in its earliest stages, more than nine out of ten people survive the disease at least five years.

Dr Jane Cope, director of the National Cancer Research Institute, added: "These figures are evidence that the bowel cancer screening programme is helping to lower the number of deaths from the disease.

"It's expected that when all of the national screening programmes across the UK have been up and running for a couple of years, that similar results will be seen for the whole of the UK."

This article was published on Wed 9 November 2011

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