Published On: Fri, Aug 10th, 2018

Bowel cancer screening age to be lowered to 50 in England


The UK National Screening Committee recommended screening should be offered to people aged 50 to 74 years old, using the faecal immunochemical home test kit (FIT), following a review of available evidence.

Ministers accepted the proposals of the independent experts on Friday.

BBC newsreader George Alagiah and former health secretary Andrew Lansley are among those who have called for earlier screening for the disease.

Alagiah, who is receiving treatment for bowel cancer for the second time, previously said it could have been caught sooner if over-50s were screened in England, like they are in Scotland.

Lord Lansley, announcing he was also being treated for the disease in April, urged the Government to cut the age of screening to 50 in the future “in line with international best practice”.

FIT, which is easier to use than the current test and more accurate in detecting potential cancer, is already due to be rolled out in the autumn and will initially be offered to those aged 60 to 74 years old.

It is expected to be gradually rolled out to over-55s, followed by over-50s, but no timetable has yet been given.

Professor Anne Mackie, director of screening at Public Health England (PHE), said: “The risk of bowel cancer rises steeply from around age 50-54 and rates are significantly higher among males than females.

“Starting screening 10 years earlier at 50 will help spot more abnormalities at an early stage that could develop into bowel cancer if not detected.

“The committee recognises that this change will take time but wants the FIT test to be offered to all aged 60 and over as soon as possible, and options considered for a roll-out plan where screening can be offered at 55 and eventually to all aged 50 – ensuring we have the best bowel screening programme possible.”

Men and women in England and Wales are currently offered a one-off bowel scope at the age of 55.

The procedure is expected to be maintained until the new home test is rolled out to this age group.

Public health minister Steve Brine said: “We are determined to make our cancer survival rates the best in the world.

“With the roll-out of FIT as a new bowel screening test from the autumn – a much more convenient and reliable test – we have a real opportunity to reshape our bowel screening programme and potentially detect the stages of bowel cancer much earlier.

“We are now considering opportunities and taking expert advice on how a sustainable, optimal bowel cancer screening programme starting at age 50 can work in the future.”

NHS England and PHE will now consider how to move towards lowering the age of screening.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “These important recommendations will be carefully considered in the NHS Long Term Plan, which will set out ambitious improvements in cancer prevention and care for the decade ahead.”



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Bowel cancer screening age to be lowered to 50 in England