What’s really causing the drop in colon cancer?

In March, the American Cancer Society announced that colon cancer rates have fallen by 30 percent over the past decade in people older than 50.1 Not surprisingly, the lame-stream media and government-industrial-medical complex are giving credit to the massively increased use of colonoscopies.

But is it correct or fair—not to mention safe—to jump to that conclusion?

While it’s great news that colon cancer rates are dropping, the fact is that nobody can honestly tell you why.

To its credit, The American Cancer Society (ACS) didn’t rest all its laurels on colonoscopies. It claims colon cancer incidence has decreased for several reasons.2 But not all of them are valid. Let’s take a look at each one…

Declines in risk factors such as smoking and red meat consumption. Have you ever thought of colon cancer as a smoking-related disease? Smoking rates have certainly fallen, but is that really the reason colon cancer has declined? I would love to see solid evidence supporting this claim. But there is none. It’s solely based on politically correct dogma.

And the supposed ills of red meat consumption have turned out to be a red herring, as I have written about frequently. Someone should clue in the ACS that it is no longer the 1970s.

Increased use of aspirin. Aspirin does actually have anticancer properties, probably because it’s a natural product derived from white willow and meadowsweet grass. Small-dose aspirin consumption has increased due to its popularity in preventing heart disease. So it makes sense that this could have a side benefit for colon cancer prevention.

More reliance on early detection tests.Note that the ACS is careful to cite “early detection tests.” Not just colonoscopies. Of course, this reality will not stop those who benefit from trying to claim that the colon cancer decline is due exclusively to colonoscopies.

But the fact is, these early-detection screening tests include several safe, effective, and inexpensive alternatives to colonoscopies. Such as…

  • Hemoccult test. This simple stool test detects hidden bleeding and possible cancer higher up in the colon. Research shows this type of screening can decrease the risk of death from colorectal cancer by 33 percent.3 Not bad for a test that is cheap, completely safe, and noninvasive—and that you can administer yourself in the privacy of your own bathroom.
  • Fecal immunochemical test. Research shows this test is sensitive, highly specific, and has high diagnostic accuracy. In fact, one recent study indicated that the fecal immunochemical test is 95 percent accurate in detecting early-stage colorectal cancer.4 This test involves collecting a stool sample at home and mailing it into a lab for screening.
  • CT colonography. This test is sometimes called a “virtual colonoscopy.” It uses medical imaging techniques to produce detailed pictures of the colon and rectum—but it is completely noninvasive. In general, CT colonography is done every five years, but radiologists have worked out several more specific guidelines for individual cases—including instances of positive hemoccult tests, and to deal with the frequent problem of an “incomplete colonoscopy.”

Remember, no direct comparison has ever been done to show that colonoscopies are any better at cancer detection than these other, safer screening options.  And note that the ACS did not talk about all the perforated colons, peritonitis, lacerated livers, internal bleeding, and deaths caused by colonoscopies.

Furthermore, the alternative screening options listed above are more readily accepted by many people, including those who are at higher risk of colon cancer in the first place.

Any medical test works only to the extent that people are willing to take it. And colonoscopy is a prime example of a test most people would rather NOT take. But we’ve all been led to believe it is our only option. That simply isn’t true. In fact, not only are there the options outlined above…but they’re cheaper, safer, and just as effective as colonoscopy (if not more so).

Colon cancer isn’t something to take lightly—and neither is screening for it. Talk to your doctor about the less-invasive, safer colonoscopy alternatives. I know I did, and so should you.

And in the meantime, you can read more about the risks associated with colonoscopy in the September 2013 issue of Insiders’ Cures.

Sources:

1 Siegel R, et al. Colorectal cancer statistics, 2014. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 64: 104–117. doi: 10.3322/caac.21220.

2Calle EE, et al. The American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Cancer, 94: 2490–2501. doi: 10.1002/cncr.101970.

3Mandel JS, et al. Reducing Mortality from Colorectal Cancer by Screening for Fecal Occult Blood. NEJM1993; 328:1365-1371

4Lee JK, et al. Accuracy of fecal immunochemical tests for colorectal cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine 2014;160(3): 171-181.


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