Colon Cancer Rates Continue to Decline

Colon cancer screening may be contributing to ongoing decline in colon cancer and related deaths

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Colon cancer remains the third most common form of cancer, but new research suggests that colon cancer screenings are helping to save lives.

This new research showed that more people over the age of 50 reported having a recent colorectal cancer screening test, also known as a colon cancer screening, than ever before.

The data revealed that incidents of both colon cancer and colon cancer-related deaths were declining year over year.

"Contact your doctor for a colon screening if you are over 50."

This research was led by Rebecca Siegel, MPH, Director, Surveillance and Health Services Research, American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia.

Siegel and team compiled data on deaths in America from 1930 to 2010 in the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Program of Cancer Registries.

The data showed that colon cancer rates have been steadily declining in men and women over 50 by 3.9 percent per year since 2001.

The numbers for patients over 65 were even more impressive, with an average annual decline of 3.6 percent between 2001 and 2008 and an average annual decline of 7.2 percent from 2008 to 2010.

"Larger declines among Medicare-eligible seniors likely reflect higher rates of screening because of universal insurance coverage," Siegel and colleagues wrote.

These authors noted that deaths from colon cancer have also declined more rapidly for men and women, with an average annual decline of 3 percent from 2001 to 2010, compared with the 2 percent average annual decrease during the 1990s.

This study also revealed that as of 2010, 55 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 reported having received a colon cancer screening test, such as a colonoscopy. Seniors over the age of 65 reported an even higher rate (64 percent) of a recent colon cancer screening test.

According to the Mayo Clinic, colon cancer is a slow growing cancer that often begin as small, noncancerous polyps that can be detected through colon cancer screening and removed before becoming cancerous.

"These continuing drops in incidence and mortality show the lifesaving potential of colon cancer screening; a potential that an estimated 23 million Americans between ages 50 and 75 are not benefiting from because they are not up to date on screening," said Richard C. Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society.

"Sustaining this hopeful trend will require concrete efforts to make sure all patients, particularly those who are economically disenfranchised, have access to screening and to the best care available," said Dr. Wender.

"As colon cancer rates continue to steadily decline, there should be no doubt that increased screening rates have contributed mightily. The annual number of Americans receiving colonoscopies between 2000-2010 has tripled from 19-55 percent. However, in our haste to celebrate the apparent victory of colon cancer screenings, it's essential that we don't inadvertently divert attention away from the vital roll of nutrition, when it comes to preventing the disease," said Dr. Mark Mincolla, legendary health care practitioner and author of "Whole Health: A Holistic Approach to Healing for the 21st Century".

"Since the early 1970s, a number of studies have demonstrated the risk-lowering potential of insoluble dietary fiber (bran). Studies consistently confirmed that fiber cleanses the bowel, removes harmful bacteria, increases the presence of good bacteria and dilutes carcinogens. In 2000 one study showed that a diet containing 25-38 grams of fiber from fruits and vegetables, can lower colon cancer risks by as much as 40 percent," Dr. Mincolla told dailyRx News.

"In 2007 another groundbreaking study discovered that it wasn't just about the fiber, but rather the type of foods that tend to be high in fiber. This study found that it was about the fruits and vegetables high in anticarcinogenic antioxidants as well as fiber. Fiber studies have, in effect, dovetailed with phytonutrient studies, as both have an important role in colon cancer prevention. The antoxidant flavones, polyphenols and monoterpenes appearing side by side with the fiber in your fruits and vegetables are true anti-cancer powerhouses," Dr. Mincolla said.

"While there is no doubt that Americans should continue the same trend toward increased colon cancer screenings, they must also not forget to maintain a healthy, cancer prevention diet as well. The latest dietary recommendation for lowering colon cancer risks are to maintain a 2/3 plant-based, 1/3 animal-based diet (avoiding processed meats), rich in fruits, non-starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains," he said.

The data from this study is being released as part of a nationwide effort to bring colon cancer screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.

This study was published March 17 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The authors made no disclosures.

Review Date: 
March 17, 2014
Last Updated:
March 25, 2014