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Cancer-testing kits may save 2,700 lives a year

23 December 2008

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Home testing kits for bowel cancer could save 2,700 lives a year, according to results of a computer simulation published in the Journal of Medical Screening.

The faecal occult blood (FOB) test kits are sent through the post every two years to people aged between 60 and 74. The programme started in England in 2007 and will be rolled out across the country by December next year.

In Scotland, screening is offered to everyone aged 50 to 74, while Wales is hoping to start implementing a programme soon. Northern Ireland has yet to decide on the extent of any screening.

The test detects small amounts of blood in stools, which can be an early sign of bowel cancer. Four out of five people diagnosed at an early stage recover from the disease. People take the test at home and send their sample to a laboratory. The results are posted back within two weeks.

More than 36,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and 16,000 die. The published research used data from between 1975 and 2004, and suggests that deaths will fall by 16% in the coming years.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Journal of Medical Screening