What men do pay attention to is prostate cancer. And that has researchers thinking an annual prostate cancer screening might be a good opportunity to urge men to be screened for colon cancer too.
Researchers looked at 22,617 men age 50 and older who had responded to the 2002 Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Survey, an annual phone survey of adults that measures preventive health behaviors. The study found that while nearly two-thirds of men were up-to-date with prostate cancer screening, only 47.6 percent had had a recent colon cancer screening.
More than 70,000 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society; some 28,000 will die from the disease. Experts recommend people age 50 and older get a fecal occult blood test annually, sigmoidoscopy every five years or colonoscopy every 10 years. These tests are highly effective at catching the disease early and reducing deaths.
The screening test for prostate cancer, called the prostate specific antigen, or PSA, test, is more controversial. Experts continue to debate what PSA level is cause for follow-up, and research suggests the test has not led to fewer deaths from prostate cancer.
"Colon cancer screening is proven to be effective at reducing deaths from colon cancer, while the effectiveness of the PSA test in reducing mortality continues to be debated. If we can turn the PSA test into an opportunity to encourage men to get their colons checked too, it would take advantage of the public demand for PSA testing," says lead study author Ruth Carlos, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at the University of Michigan Medical School.