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Improved Screening Could Dramatically Cut Colorectal Cancer Rates

Changes in CRC Deaths

Changes in CRC Deaths

New diagnoses and death rates continue to decline for colorectal cancer, and the positive trend is expected to continue into the future.  Increasing the numbers of people who are screened could make the rates fall even faster.

Increased screening probably has had the greatest impact on decreasing rates, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, but improved treatments have also contributed.

If trends continue at the same rate, the number of colorectal cancer deaths per 100,000 people in the United States would fall from the current 19.9  per 100,000 to 11.9 by 2020, about a 40 percent reduction.

However, with increased efforts to reduce risk factors, increase screening, and reach more patients with optimal chemotherapy could cut the rate almost in half — from 19.9 to 10.5.

In the period between 2002 and 2006, the average annual change in new cases of colorectal cancer in men has fallen by 4.2 percent while incidence for women has decreased each year by an average of 2.4 percent.

Death rates declined 3.9 percent for men and 3.4 percent for women.

The Annual Report to the Nation is a collaborative project of the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) who work together each year to provide updated information about cancer occurrence and trends in the United States.

In addition to the review of statistics, the Annual Report this year includes a computer simulation of future trends for colorectal cancer deaths. MISCAN-Colon projects changes in incidence and deaths through 2020 based on the development of cancer from adenomatous polyps over time.

If current trends continue, death rates from colorectal cancer will decline by about 40 percent by 2020, although it will take continued efforts to reduce risk factors, reach people who need screening, and ensure that patients get recommended chemotherapy.

With a more optimistic, but realistic, scenario in which there are increased efforts to reduce risk factors such as smoking, increase screening rates, and ensure optimal treatment for diagnosed patients, MISCAN projects that death rate can be reduced by 50 percent in the next 10 years.

Overall cancer rates are also dropping, declining by 1.3% per year during 2000-2006 for men, and by 0.5% per year during 1998-2006 for women.

Prostate cancer was the most common cancer for men, followed by lung and colorectal cancer.  For women, breast cancer was the most common followed by lung and colorectal.

Commenting on the favorable trends, Carlea Bauman, President of C3, said,

While we are pleased that screening has made a positive impact on the rate of new cases of colorectal cancer, we remain concerned that screening doesn’t reach all Americans. If we are to cut the colorectal cancer incidence rate in half by 2020, we need to be sure that the uninsured have access to screening.

SOURCE: Edwards et al., Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2006,Featuring Colorectal Cancer Trends and Impact of Interventions (Risk Factors, Screening, and Treatment) to Reduce Future Rates, Cancer,  Early View, December 7, 2009.

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