Monday, 18 March 2013

When is best to screen for bowel cancer?

The Daily Mail reported today that, “thousands of lives could be saved if the age at which men are screened for bowel cancer is lowered by 10 years.”

This news story is based on a large Austrian study that aimed to determine the correct age to screen men and women for bowel cancer. It found that the number of screening colonoscopies needed to detect one case of bowel cancer (called the number needed to screen or NNS) was significantly lower in men compared to women across all ages. The NNS in men who were 55-59 years old was similar to women 10 years older (75 versus 81.8 colonoscopies respectively). This and other similar findings led the authors to suggest a need to reduce the screening age in men by approximately 10 years.

This robust study provides important information about the difference in prevalence of bowel cancer in men and women of different ages who took part in a national colonoscopy screening programme.

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