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Bowel cancer prevention screening in men advised from the age of 45 onwards

(Vienna 28th September 2011) Each year, around 5,000 people die from colorectal cancer in Austria, with the mortality rate being just under 50 per cent. A screening colonoscopy (bowel imaging) is recommended in Austria for people who turn 50, regardless of their gender. A current study by the Austrian Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology, led by Monika Ferlitsch from the Medical University of Vienna, however, concludes that this screening procedure is advisable from the age of 45 in men. 

Under the supervision of Monika Ferlitsch from the Clinical Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Department of Internal Medicine III at the MedUni Vienna within the general hospital Vienna, a total of 44,350 screening colonoscopies were evaluated as part of the "Colorectal cancer screening quality certificate" project set up by the Austrian Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (ÖGGH) and the Central Association of Austrian Social Insurance Funds. The results showed that, in men aged between 50 and 55, the risk of pre-cancerous and early forms of colon cancer, known as adenomas, is twice as high as in women of the same age.

The scientists also demonstrated that the risk of adenoma is as high among men aged between 45 and 50 as it is in women aged between 55 and 60. In keeping with this, the current evaluation by Statistik Austria shows that twice the number of men in Austria develop and die from colorectal cancer compared to women. Says Ferlitsch: "All of these aspects suggest that the current referral age for screening colonoscopy among men needs to be questioned, in order to reduce the number of new cases of bowel cancer and mortality from the disease". In Austria, screening colonoscopy is only covered by social insurance funds' screening services from the age of 50.

The ÖGGH ( website features an easy-to-use directory of certified colonoscopy centres in Austria. No screening colonoscopies are carried out at the general hospital itself. The study has now been published in the current edition of the renowned American journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

JAMA “Sex specific prevalence of adenomas, advanced adenomas and colorectal cancer in individuals undergoing screening colonoscopy”; Monika Ferlitsch, Karoline Reinhart, Sybille Pramhas, Caspar Wiener, Orsolya Gal, Christina Bannert, Michaela Hassler, Karin Kozbial, Daniela Dunkler, Michael Trauner, Werner Weiss; JAMA. September 28, 2011; Vol. 306(12):1352-1358. No.12.