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Sigmoidoscopy is best colorectal cancer test

Flexible sigmoidoscopy would be the most cost-effective screening test for the planned national colorectal cancer screening programme, influential Government advisers have concluded.

Professor John Northover and Dr Wendy Atkin, who worked on

Department of Health guidance on improving outcomes in colorectal cancer, have advocated a single

sigmoidoscopy test for the entire population aged 60, possibly supplemented by faecal occult blood testing after that age.

Writing in the journal Gut (March), they say: 'The most important advantage of flexible sigmoidoscopy is its ability to prevent colorectal cancer through detection and treatment of adenomas, the precursor of most colorectal cancer.'

But half the UK population would have to accept screening to make it cost-effective, warn Dr Atkin and Professor Northover, director and deputy director respectively of the Cancer Research UK colorectal

cancer unit at St Mark's Hospital in Middlesex.

Sigmoidoscopy takes five minutes and detects 95 per cent of colorectal cancers and high-risk polyps larger than 1cm. Evidence also suggests its protective effects against a fatal cancer diagnosis last 10 years compared with two years for faecal testing.

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