The prevalence of often-deadly colo-rectal cancer has declined among the Jewish population in the last two decades. It has risen in the Arab population – both men and women – but remained stable during the last five years.
The survival rate is increasing among Jewish and Arab men and women.
The Health Ministry and the Israel Cancer Association have declared that March is the month for increasing awareness of cancer of the colon and rectum.
In 2011, the last year with such statistics, 3,259 new cases of penetrating cancer of the colon and rectum were diagnosed, with 1,247 of them dying of the tumor. The rate of patients who were diagnosed at an early stage almost doubled – from 20 percent in 1994 to 39% today, thanks to intensive information campaigns by the ICA and others.
Some 54% of people aged 50 to 74 now go for screening (by testing for occult blood in the feces and colonoscopies) for colo-rectal cancer, and the figure is constantly rising, as the four public health funds are required by the ministry to report on screening of relevant age groups. But about one quarter of people whose occult blood test was positive refused to undergo the invasive test, during which pre-cancerous polyps are painlessly removed.
Colo-rectal cancer is the second- most-common malignant tumor in Israel. In 2011, 3,259 new patients were diagnosed – of them, 1,456 Jewish males, 1,391 Jewish women, 124 Arab males and 124 Arab females and the rest not categorized.
A first-ever study at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and the University of Maastricht in Holland recently studied the views of 318 siblings and children of people who contracted colo-rectal cancer. Such first-degree relatives are entitled to free colonoscopies because of their higher risk of getting it themselves.
The results were that 46% did not undergo any screening for the tumor; 14% underwent colonoscopies after noticing symptoms such as rectal bleeding or irregular bowel habits; and 17% underwent screening but not according to medical directives. Less than a quarter followed medical advisories and had colonoscopies according to recommendations.
The study was published late last year in the journal Familial Cancer.
In addition, only a minority of these higher-risk individuals adopted healthy living habits that would have reduced their risk of colo-rectal cancer.
Although a large number of studies have shown a reduced risk of the tumor among people who take folic acid and B vitamins (or get it automatically in flour), the ministry has not yet required that these be added to baked goods, unlike the practice in many countries, including the US. The ministry has done this only as a pilot project in the Beduin population Meanwhile, research over a period of eight years at universities in Brazil and the UK found a connection between lower rates of colo-rectal cancer in older people who use the Internet to get reliable health information.
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