ShareThis Page

Cancer screenings, longer life linked in Pitt researcher's study

| Monday, May 21, 2012, 11:08 a.m.

Colorectal cancer screenings are vastly underutilized, a University of Pittsburgh researcher said about a study released on Monday that shows they can effectively prevent cancer and deaths.

The study, part of the National Cancer Institute's Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, involved 154,900 men and women randomly assigned to two groups. Those who underwent colorectal cancer screening reduced their incidence of cancer by 21 percent compared to people who simply received typical care from doctors.

Those who underwent screenings experienced 26 percent fewer deaths, according to the study published in the online New England Journal of Medicine. Colorectal cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, kills more than 50,000 people annually.

"This is the chance to get no cancer," Dr. Robert Schoen, the study's lead author, said about the importance of screening. "This is the strongest evidence to the effectiveness of screening the entire colon."

Thomas Devlin of Crafton underwent a colonoscopy last week. He was not part of the study but made the appointment because he turned 50 last year and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people ages 50 to 75 years old undergo colorectal cancer screening involving a blood test, a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

People at higher risk, such as a family history, should begin screening earlier.

"If you can find out early, definitely do it," said Devlin, whose screening at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland found no abnormalities.

In the study, people assigned to the screening group underwent a test in which the lower colon is examined with a scope. Those with abnormal tests underwent a colonoscopy, in which the entire colon is examined and polyps can be removed. The screenings were conducted from 1993 through 2001.

Schoen, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said there is a need for public health announcements to encourage patients to get screenings.

He said colorectal cancer is preventable because the screenings check for what he called "pre-cancer," which can be anything from blood in the stool to lesions or polyps.

"People always ask me what's the best cancer" to get that can be treated, Schoen said. "And I always say it's the one you don't get."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.