Tayside and Central Scotland

Bowel cancer screening could shed light on other conditions

Bowel cancer cell Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Cancerous cells in bowel tissue can lead to symptoms that are picked up by the screening programme

Bowel cancer testing could indicate whether people are at risk of other health problems, a study of patients in Tayside has suggested.

It found when blood is detected in a person's stool they are at an increased risk of death from other diseases.

The study, published in the journal Gut, examined data on 134,192 Tayside patients between 2000 and 2016.

The results were linked to mortality data from the National Records of Scotland database.

Researchers from Ninewells Hospital and the University of Dundee Medical School examined data from people who took part in the home screening test, which in Scotland is offered every two years to men and women aged between 50 and 74.

The 2,714 patients with a positive result had a 58% higher risk of death from other conditions.

Having a positive result was significantly associated with increased risk of dying from circulatory disease, respiratory disease, digestive diseases excluding bowel cancer, neuropsychological disease, blood and endocrine disease.

'Save lives'

Commenting on the study, Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK and Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "We know that bowel cancer screening is key to preventing bowel cancer or diagnosing it early but finding ways to extend its benefit in people who test positive but don't have bowel cancer is really exciting.

"This may, in time, help us save lives lost to other health conditions too. It also highlights the importance of taking part in bowel cancer screening when invited to do so or if you experience visible symptoms, please take action and tell your GP."

The home screening test is offered to people in England from the age of 60.

BBC news presenter George Alagiah said in February that his bowel cancer could have been caught earlier if the screening programme in England was the same as in Scotland.

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