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Conference in brief

Referrals under two-week rule vary widely

Referrals for suspected gastrointestinal cancers under the two-week rule vary widely between GP practices and the numbers of patients found to have cancer is very low, a study suggests.

Researchers in Liverpool found only one in 40 of the 3,175 patients referred from 78 practices under the two-week rule had cancer, while 13.2 per cent had 'serious pathology'.

The study concludes that while practice referrals ranged from one to 200 these could not be accounted for by practice characteristics and that high referring practices may still be referring appropriately.

IBD reduces lifespan by three-and-a-half years

Inflammatory bowel disease patients have a reduced life expectancy, according to a report from public health researchers in Nottingham.

A study of 16,550 IBD cases ­ of whom 1,047 died ­ and 82,917 controls found patients lived an average of 3.5 years less than controls.

Life expectancy was shorter in Crohn's disease patients but longer in ulcerative colitis patients, and the effect diminished with age.

Patients with Barrett's oesophagus lost to surveillance

A long-term follow-up of patients who have had endoscopic surveillance to diagnose Barrett's oesophagus ­ a potential precursor to adenocarcinoma ­ has found almost half have not been re-endoscoped.

Researchers from City Hospital Birmingham, who followed 437 patients with Barrett's oesophagus, say the majority of patients diagnosed do not enter or do not continue endoscopic surveillance programmes.

More than 10 per cent of patients who were lost from the programme had not been sent for further screening by their GP.

British risk of oesophageal cancer

A study of a database compiled by the International Association of Cancer Registries has found that Britain has the highest rate of oesophageal cancer in the world, with Scottish men at most risk. The risk of oesophageal carcinoma by age 79 was 1 per cent in Scottish men and 0.71 per cent for English men.

The figures for Scotland are more than double the levels in Holland (0.48 per cent) and the US (0.4 per cent).

The researchers from Cambridge said this reflected social trends of obesity, smoking and drinking, but also the level of reflux disease.

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