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More than 41 million Americans need colorectal cancer screening

Bethesda, Maryland (Dec. 1, 2004) More than 41 million Americans who are candidates for colorectal cancer screening have not been screened for this second-leading cancer killer, the first time the unscreened population has been quantified. According to a study published today in the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) journal Gastroenterology, sufficient capacity exists to screen the unscreened population within one year using fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) followed by diagnostic colonoscopy for positive tests.

Guidelines of multiple agencies and professional societies underscore the importance of colorectal cancer screening for all individuals 50 years of age and older. Approved tests include barium enema, FOBT, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. Each screening option has advantages and disadvantages.

"Given the enormous number of people who are eligible for screening but have not been screened, it is clear that regardless of the test, colorectal cancer screening is underutilized," notes Bernard Levin, MD, AGA spokesperson. "Men and women who are otherwise fit should be screened for colorectal polyps and cancer because colorectal cancer can be prevented by polypectomy and cured when detected early."

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and CDC's National Health Interview Survey to estimate the size of the population that has not received colorectal cancer screening. In addition, a companion paper published in this issue of Gastroenterology reports findings of the CDC's national Survey of Endoscopic Capacity which estimates the number of flexible sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies performed in a year, and the maximum number that physicians could perform given an increased demand.

Although ample capacity exists for screening with FOBT, a test that is inexpensive and widely available, findings of this study suggest that ca
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Contact: Kimberly Wise
media@gastro.org
301-941-2620
American Gastroenterological Association
1-Dec-2004


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