ASGE encouraged by drop in colorectal cancer deaths

November 26, 2008

OAK BROOK, Ill. - November 26, 2008 - The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) heralds the recent news of a decline in U.S. cancer deaths and incidence rates, with colorectal cancer among the top three cancers with significant declines. ASGE, representing the specialists in colorectal cancer screening, is excited by the report showing that colorectal cancer deaths among men and women dropped 4.3 percent per year between 2002 and 2005. The incidence rate for colorectal cancer (the rate at which new cancers are diagnosed) dropped 2.8 percent per year among men and dropped 2.2 percent per year among women between 1998 and 2005.

The study, issued annually since 1998 by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, showed for the first time a simultaneous decline in both cancer death rates and incidence rates in men and women. Incidence rates for all cancers combined (15 most commonly diagnosed) decreased 0.8 percent per year from 1999 through 2005 for both sexes combined; rates decreased 1.8 percent per year from 2001 through 2005 for men and 0.6 percent per year from 1998 through 2005 for women. The decline in both incidence and death rates for all cancers combined is due in large part to declines in the three most common cancers among men (lung, colon/rectum, and prostate) and the two most common cancers among women (breast and colon/rectum), combined with a leveling off of lung cancer death rates among women.

The concurrent declines in colorectal cancer mortality and incidence are likely associated with preventing colorectal cancer through screening and removal of precancerous polyps, improving cancer outcomes by earlier stage diagnosis, reducing exposure to risk factors, and improving cancer treatment.

"This report demonstrates the importance of colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50," said John L. Petrini, MD, FASGE, president of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. "Individuals with other risk factors, including a family history of colon cancer or polyps, and African Americans, may need screening at an earlier age. This disease is largely preventable and curable when diagnosed in its early stages. While we are encouraged by this excellent news, far too few people are getting screened. ASGE recommends colonoscopy screening beginning at age 50 and repeating every 10 years after a normal exam. Colonoscopy plays a very important role in colorectal cancer screening and prevention because it is the only method that allows for the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during the same exam and before the polyps turn into cancer."

Colorectal cancer kills more than 50,000 people each year. Many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. The five-year relative survival rate for people whose colorectal cancer is treated in an early stage is greater than 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. Once the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate decreases dramatically.
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ASGE screening guidelines recommend that, beginning at age 50, asymptomatic men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. People with risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, should begin at an earlier age. Patients are advised to discuss their risk factors with their physician to determine when to begin routine colorectal cancer screening and how often they should be screened.

For more information about colorectal cancer screening or to find a qualified physician, visit ASGE's colorectal cancer awareness Web site at www.screen4coloncancer.org.

About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

Founded in 1941, the mission of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is to be the leader in advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with nearly 11,000 members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education. Visit www.asge.org and www.screen4coloncancer.org for more information.

About Endoscopy

Endoscopy is performed by specially-trained physicians called endoscopists using the most current technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Using flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system.

American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

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