Bowel cancer screening should be risk based, but we're not there yet
People should be invited to take part in screening based on their risk of developing bowel cancer rather than just their age, according to research published in The BMJ today (Wednesday 2 October 2019).
Screening can detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people with no symptoms when it is easier to treat and a greater chance of survival. The test is sent to everyone aged 60-74 (or 50-74 in Scotland) every two years, regardless of their risk of bowel cancer.
A person’s risk of developing the disease depends on many factors including their age, ethnicity, sex, genetics and lifestyle factors, such as alcohol, smoking, physical activity and diet.
Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs, says: “Inviting people to take part in bowel cancer screening based on their individual risk of developing the disease is absolutely something we would like to see in the future. However, at the moment we’re a long way off this being possible and as the research highlights, there is more work needed in this area to make this a reality.
“We know that the current bowel cancer screening programme saves lives. The new screening test, the Faecal Immunochemical Test, is a game changer as it can detect twice as many cancers and four times as many pre-cancerous poylps than the previous screening test and is much easier for people to use.
“We welcome studies that look at ways to improve the current screening programme as early detection of bowel cancer gives people the best possible chance of survival.”