First report on bowel cancer screening program

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program monitoring report 2007, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), tracks the first year of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

In the first year of the Program, which began in August 2006, nearly 450,000 screening kits were sent to people aged 55 and 65 with the aim of reducing mortality from bowel cancer through early detection of bowel cancer and precancerous polyps.

'Just over 40% of people who received the kit took up the offer to complete the test, said Melissa Goodwin of the AIHW's Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit.

Participation was almost 20% higher amongst 65 year olds than 55 year olds.

Blood in the faeces was detected in 7% of tests completed as part of Phase 1 of the Program, and men were 40% more likely to have blood detected than women.

'Despite this fact, and the fact that men aged 55-74 years are 58% more likely to develop bowel cancer than women, participation in screening was almost 20% higher in women', Ms Goodwin said.

'This is the first national screening program inviting men to participate, and men are less likely to screen compared with women, who are more used to it through breast and cervical cancer screening.'

Either pre-cancerous polyps or cancers were detected in 63% of the positive results that were further investigated by colonoscopy.

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia, and about 4,100 people in Australia die each year from the disease.

For both men and women, the risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age.

The risk of being diagnosed with bowel cancer by the age of 85 years is 1 in 10 for males and 1 in 14 for females,' Ms Goodwin said.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Further information: Melissa Goodwin, tel. 02 6244 1041, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032