Fewer people are being diagnosed with colon cancer because more people are getting screened, a new study finds.
Colonoscopy use has tripled among adults ages 50 to 75, according to findings released Monday by the American Cancer Society. In 2010, some 55 percent of older Americans received colonoscopies, up from 19 percent in 2000.
Incidence rates of colon cancer among older Americans dropped by 30 percent from 2001-10, according to the data.
Colorectal cancer, commonly known as colon cancer, is the third most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States.
Screenings are an important prevention tool, because colon cancer begins as a precancerous polyp, which doctors can remove before it develops into tumor. Screenings can also detect cancer early, and early treatment increases the likelihood of survival. Some 90 percent of patients survive when colon cancer has been diagnosed before it has spread, compared with 70 percent when it has spread to nearby organs and 13 percent when it has spread to distant organs.
The data comes as the Health and Human Services Department and National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable — an organization founded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society — make a new nationwide push to increase screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.
"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 Wender, American Cancer Society chief cancer control officer, in a press release.
The number of Americans receiving colonoscopies and related screenings is expected to go up as more Americans obtain health insurance and get access to preventive screenings at little to no cost, one of the primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
The results of the study were published in the March/April issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Researchers evaluated data from the CDC and the National Cancer Institute in preparing the report.