Bowel cancer screening could indicate other illnesess and detect early risk

Bowel Cancer is the second largest cause of death in the UK.  Around one in twenty people will get bowel cancer at some point in their life.  Nine in ten will be over the age of 60.

A study has suggested that bowel cancer testing could indicate whether people are at risk of other illnesses. The study was published in the journal Gut and it examined data on 134,192 Tayside patients between 2000 and 2016.

The patients were taking part in the Scottish bowel cancer screening programme. The programme aims to prevent bowel cancer or detect it early. In the programme, people aged between 50 and 74 are sent a home testing kit every two years.

The study found that if the test showed blood in a person’s stool they had an increased risk of other illnesses that could increase the risk of dying. These illnesses include circulatory disease, lung disease, and digestive system diseases.

Commenting on the study, Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer, said: “We know that bowel cancer screening is key to preventing bowel cancer or diagnosing it early but finding ways to extend its benefit in people who test positive but don’t have bowel cancer is really exciting”.  This information could help us to monitor those patients more closely and to give treatments early for the other illnesses to control them better. Deborah Alsina said “This may, in time, help us save lives lost to other health conditions too. It also highlights the importance of taking part in bowel cancer screening when invited to do so or if you have any symptoms, please take action and tell your GP.”

The different countries in the UK have different ages for the screening programmes and the home screening test is offered to people in England from the age of 60.

Find out about cancer screening programmes in the UK

Read more about the screening study in the Gut journal