March is Colorectal Awareness Month. Aside from engaging in a number of activities to promote a better understanding of the cancer, doctors are pushing for increased screening to help deter avoidable cases for the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. A new initiative by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, a national coalition made up of voluntary, public and private organizations, adds a defined goal to the effort by aiming to bump screening rates in the country to 80 percent by 2018.

In a study published in the journal Cancer, researchers assessed the potential benefit to public health of achieving the goal. According to results, a considerable number of cases and colorectal cancer-related deaths will be avoided should the goal of pushing screening rates up to 80 percent be met by 2018. Specifically, it would lead to averting about 280,000 new cases and 200,000 deaths.

Reinier G. S. Meester, Iris Lansdorp-Vogelaar, Chyke A. Doubeni, Ahmedin Jemal, Ann G. Zauber, Douglas A. Corley, S. Luuk Goede and Theodore R. Levin simulated the United States population between 1980 and 2030 for the 50 to 100 age group. Historical screening rates were applied as detailed by data from the National Health Interview Survey from 1987 to 2013. The effects on an increase in screening rate from 58 percent to 80 percent from 2013 to 2018 was compared to a controlled setup were screening rates remained constant.

Researchers found that increasing screening rates for colorectal cancer from figures in 2013 to the 2018 goal showed a 17 percent reduction in incidence rates and a 19-percent drop in mortality for the short-term follow-up period between 2013 and 2020. For the extended follow-up spanning 2013 to 2030, incidence rates dropped to 22 percent while mortality rates were reduced by 33 percent. These reductions resulted in 277,000 new cases of colorectal cancer averted and 203,000 colorectal cancer-related deaths avoided.

In 2013, less than six out of 10 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 were screened for colorectal cancer. Risks of the cancer increase with age so individuals at least 50 years of age are advised to get themselves screened regularly. Routine screening helps catch abnormal growths early, allowing for removal before they turn cancerous, and detects the cancer in its early stages, helping make treatment more effective.

In 2015, around 132,700 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed as having colorectal cancer while 49,700 lives will be lost to the cancer, despite how highly preventable the disease is.

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