Screenings Credited for Drop in Colon Cancer Rates

In the last 10 years, colon cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent nationwide among adults 50 and older, primarily due to colonoscopy.

The largest decrease was seen in people over the age of 65. Colonoscopy use has nearly tripled among adults ages 50 to 75, from 19 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2010.

The findings come from Colorectal Cancer Statistics, 2014, published in the March/April issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The article and its companion report, Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures, were released today by American Cancer Society researchers. Both are part of a new initiative by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable to increase screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.

More people could benefit from screenings, according to a news release from the American Cancer Society.

“These continuing drops in incidence and mortality show the lifesaving potential of colon cancer screening; a potential that an estimated 23 million Americans between ages 50 and 75 are not benefiting from because they are not up to date on screening,” said Dr. Richard C. Wender, American Cancer Society chief cancer control officer. “Sustaining this hopeful trend will require concrete efforts to make sure all patients, particularly those who are economically disenfranchised, have access to screening and to the best care available.”

Colorectal cancer – often called colon cancer – is the third most common cancer nationwide. It is also the third leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. “Its slow growth from precancerous polyp to invasive cancer provides a rare opportunity to prevent cancer through the detection and removal of precancerous growths,” the news release states. “Screening also allows early detection of cancer, when treatment is more successful. As a result, screening reduces colorectal cancer mortality both by decreasing the incidence of disease and by increasing the likelihood of survival.”

In the study, researchers wrote that universal insurance coverage likely led to the larger declines of colon cancer among Medicare-eligible seniors because they had higher rates of screening. “In 2010, 55 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 years reported having undergone a recent colorectal cancer screening test, compared with 64 percent of those aged 65 years and older,” the authors wrote.

Just as the number of colon cancer cases has dropped, so has the rate of colon cancer deaths.

From 2001 to 2010, mortality rates decreased by approximately 3 percent per year in both men and women, compared with declines of approximately 2 percent per year during the 1990s.

Source: American Cancer Society news release

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