Report shows the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program reduces the risk of bowel cancer death

UNDER EMBARGO—until 1.00am Thursday 31 May 2018

Australia’s bowel cancer screening program is effective in reducing the risk of death from the disease, a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows.

The report, Analysis of bowel cancer outcomes for the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, investigated the outcomes of 51,800 Australians who were diagnosed with bowel cancer between 2006 and 2015.

About 30% (15,500) of this group had been invited to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, as part of a target group who turned 50, 55 or 65 years during 2006–2010.

The remaining 70% (36,400) had not been invited to participate in the program, as they were not in a target age group during this period.

The report shows that the program was effective in reducing bowel cancer death rates.

‘Of those diagnosed with bowel cancer, the risk of death by 2015 was 13% higher for people not invited to participate in the program than those who were invited,’ said AIHW spokesperson Justin Harvey.

Among those who had been invited to participate in the program and had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, the risk of death for those who participated was less than half that of people who did not participate but had a bowel cancer diagnosed through other means (for example, after experiencing symptoms).

Mr Harvey noted that the reduced risk of death among participants was generally because their bowel cancers were detected at a less advanced stage, which is associated with better treatment options and outcomes.

‘People who were invited to participate in the program and had their bowel cancer detected via screening were much more likely to be diagnosed with an early stage cancer than those who did not participate,’ he said.

The AIHW recently released the latest information on participation rates in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, showing that of the 3.2 million people invited to the program between January 2015 and December 2016, 41% participated.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has reduced bowel cancer death rates despite less than half of those invited participating.

Increased participation in the program would be expected to further reduce bowel cancer death rates.

Further information: Justin Harvey, AIHW: mob. 0450 677 562