NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Colonoscopy Reduces Colon, Rectal Cancer Deaths: 04/23/2012
A landmark study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests removing precancerous polyps during a colonoscopy prevents the development of – and deaths from – colon and rectal cancer.
The study’s authors found the detection and removal of precancerous polyps during a colonoscopy resulted in a 53 percent reduction in colon and rectal cancer mortality compared to the deaths expected from both diseases within the general U.S. population. The study also found no statistical difference in the risk of developing colon and rectal cancer for up to 10 years among the 2,602 patients (enrolled in the National Polyp Study who had precancerous polyps removed) compared to study participants without precancerous polyps.
In an interesting discussion of the study’s implications, the authors add the findings may underestimate the mortality reductions from a colonoscopy in larger populations.
MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page explains polyps are tumor-like growths that can develop in the colon. Precancerous polyps are one of the abnormalities health care professionals search for during a colonoscopy procedure.
The collaborative study was conducted in seven different clinical centers and was led by researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The research was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. The study’s 12 researchers, who followed enrollees for as long as 23 years after a colonoscopy, noted the findings are the first to robustly suggest the procedure’s life saving potential.
The authors explain previous research strongly suggested the removal of polyps during a colonoscopy prevented colon and rectal cancer.
The authors add (and we quote): ‘It has been a long-standing belief that screening for colorectal cancer can affect mortality from the disease...’ (end of quote). However, the current research is the first to suggest the removal of precancerous polyps prevents deaths.
Ann Zauber Ph.D., the study’s lead author, said in a Sloan Kettering press release (and we quote): ‘our findings provide strong reassurance that there is a long-term benefit to removing these polyps and support continued recommendations of screening colonoscopy in people age 50 and older’ (end of quote).
The authors conclude the reduced colon and rectal cancer deaths found in the study provides (and we quote) ‘ a critical prerequisite for continued recommendations of screening colonoscopy in clinical practice while we wait for the results of randomized, controlled trials of screening colonoscopy’ (end of quote).
MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page explains colon and rectal cancers are the fourth most common cause of cancer among men and women.
MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page adds a colonoscopy is a procedure that enables health care professionals to look inside your large intestine for inflamed tissue, abnormal growths (such as polyps) and ulcers. The procedure uses a scope with a tiny camera attached to a long, thin tube.
A good introduction to a colonoscopy procedure (from the American College of Surgeons) is available in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page. You can watch a colonoscopy in the ‘videos’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page additionally contains updated research summaries, which are available within the ‘research’ section. Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the colonoscopy health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.
Similarly, information about colon and rectal cancer research summaries, related journal articles, clinical trials, and updates are available within the same sections of MedlinePlus.gov’s colorectal cancer health topic page.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s colorectal cancer health topic page, type ‘colorectal’ C…O…L…O…R…E…C…T…A…L’ cancer in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘colorectal cancer (National Library of Medicine).’
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s colonoscopy health topic page, please type ‘colonoscopy’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, that’s C…O…L…O…N…O… S…C…O…P…Y’ then, click on ‘colonoscopy (National Library of Medicine).’
Other related health topic pages within MedlinePlus.gov include: colonic diseases, and colonic polyps.
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A disclaimer – the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider. I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the 'Director's Comments' podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company – and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2012.
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