Bowel cancer screening is saving lives

Sarah Wiedersehn

People who are not regularly screened for bowel cancer are significantly more likely to die from the disease than those who participate in the National Bowel Cancer Screening program, a new report shows.

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) investigated the outcomes of 51,800 Australians who were diagnosed with bowel cancer between 2006 and 2015.

About 30 per cent (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 analysis shows the screening program was effective in reducing bowel cancer death rates, even with a low participation rate of 41 per cent.

The AIHW report states better participation in the program would further reduce the number of people dying from the disease, which currently kills an estimated 4,000 people every year.

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

Among those who participated 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.

The reduced risk of death was generally because the bowel cancer had been caught early, noted Mr Harvey.