March 17, 2014Colon cancer incidence rates have
dropped 30 percent in the U.S. in the last 10 years among adults 50 and
older due to the widespread uptake of colonoscopy, with the largest
decrease being in senior citizens over age 65. Colonoscopy use has
almost tripled among adults ages 50 to 75, from 19 percent in 2000 to 55
percent in 2010.
Death rates from colon cancer have also declined
rapidly within the last decade. The report says even more deaths could
be avoided if everyone got their screening tests on time.
The findings come from Colorectal Cancer
Statistics, 2014, published in the March/April issue of CA: A Cancer
Journal for Clinicians.
The article and its companion report, Colorectal
Cancer Facts & Figures, were released today by American Cancer Society
researchers as part of a new initiative by the National Colorectal
Cancer Roundtable to increase screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.
Colorectal cancer, commonly called colon cancer, is
the third most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death
in men and women in the United States. Its slow growth from precancerous
polyp to invasive cancer provides a rare opportunity to prevent cancer
through the detection and removal of precancerous growths.
Screening also allows early detection of cancer,
when treatment is more successful. As a result, screening reduces
colorectal cancer mortality both by decreasing the incidence of disease
and by increasing the likelihood of survival.
Using incidence data from the National Cancer
Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Program of
Cancer Registries, as provided by the North American Association of
Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), researchers led by Rebecca Siegel,
MPH found that during the most recent decade of data (2001 to 2010),
overall incidence rates decreased by an average of 3.4 percent per year.
However, trends vary substantially by age. Rates
declined by 3.9 percent per year among adults aged 50 years and older,
but increased by 1.1 percent per year among men and women younger than
50. That increase was confined to tumors in the distal colon and rectum,
patterns for which a rise in obesity and emergence of unfavorable
dietary patterns has been implicated.
Most strikingly, the rate of decline has surged
among those 65 and older, with the decline accelerating from 3.6 percent
per year during 2001-2008 to 7.2 percent per year during 2008-2010.
The "larger declines among Medicare-eligible
seniors likely reflect higher rates of screening because of universal
insurance coverage," the authors write. "In 2010, 55 percent of adults
aged 50 to 64 years reported having undergone a recent colorectal cancer
screening test, compared with 64 percent of those aged 65 years and
Like incidence, mortality rates have also declined
most rapidly within the past decade. From 2001 to 2010, rates decreased
by approximately 3 percent per year in both men and women, compared with
declines of approximately 2 percent per year during the 1990s.
"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, M.D., American Cancer Society chief cancer control
"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
The data is being released at the launch of a
nationwide effort to increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80%
by 2018. Public health leaders, including Assistant Secretary for Health
Howard Koh, MD, MPH and American Cancer Society CEO, John R. Seffrin,
PhD will join dozens of members of the National Colorectal Cancer
Roundtable (NCCRT) at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on
The NCCRT, an organization co-founded by the
American Cancer Society and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, will focus on dramatically increasing colorectal cancer
screening rates in the U.S. over the next four years, and increasing
awareness of the potential for early detection and prevention of this
The American Cancer Society is one of dozens of
groups joining together to launch an effort to increase the nation's
colorectal cancer screening rate to 80 percent by the year 2018. Members
of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT, an organization
co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the U. S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention) are focused on dramatically increasing
colorectal cancer screening rates in the U.S. over the next four years,
and increasing awareness of the potential for early detection and
prevention of this cancer.
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