Chicago — Researchers say there would be significantly fewer deaths from colorectal cancer if lots of people got just a single colonoscopy during their lifetime.
The findings are contained in a cost-effectiveness analysis of 22 screening methods for the nation's second-leading cancer killer.
All 22 were deemed to extend life expectancy, but the most effective was annual testing for blood in the stool plus sigmoidoscopy every five years from age 50 to 85. The researchers estimated that would result in an 80 percent reduction in cancer deaths among white men with an average cancer risk. If widely used, a single colonoscopy at age 55 would result in 30 percent fewer cancer deaths, the researchers said.
The results show "why it's worth going through the uncomfortablenss of some of those procedures," said Dr. A. Lindsay Frazier of Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital, who led the study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Assn.
The only tests considered not cost-effective were barium enemas, in which the colon is X-rayed after being flushed with a chemical solution. They cost about $300 but miss many cancers and can produce false-positive results that may be followed by unnecessary colonoscopies.