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Colon Cancer Screening Program Benefits Unclear

Flexible sigmoidoscopy screening does not reduce cancer incidence, study suggests

MONDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- There was no reduction in incidence of colon cancer after seven years' follow-up on a screening program in Norway, and it is too early to say whether such programs can produce concrete benefits, according to a study published online on May 31 in BMJ.

Geir Hoff, M.D., of the Cancer Registry of Norway in Oslo, and colleagues conducted a study of 55,736 men and women aged 55 to 64 years, of whom 13,823 underwent one flexible sigmoidoscopy screening either with or without a fecal occult blood test, while 41,913 did not.

The researchers found that during seven years of follow-up, there were 134.5 incidences of colorectal cancer per 100,000 person years in the screening group compared with 131.9 per 100,000 person years in the control group. However, mortality due to colorectal cancer was reduced by 59 percent in the screening group compared to the control group, the investigators found, noting though that this finding could be prone to bias.

"At this stage of follow-up, a large proportion of prevalent, screen detected colorectal cancers makes it uncertain whether the observed flattening of the incidence curve during the first years after screening is simply due to prevalent, screen detected colorectal cancers that would otherwise have appeared as incident colorectal cancers or a genuine preventive effect on colorectal cancer by removal of adenomas," the authors write.

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