ICA: Colonoscopies could save 3,000 Israelis every year

A total of 3,016 Israelis – 1,503 men and 1,513 women – were diagnosed in 2015 with colorectal cancer, a disease that is preventable by undergoing a colonoscopy to find and remove precancerous polyps

March 7, 2018 01:42
2 minute read.
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A team of doctors discuss mental health (Illustrative). (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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A total of 3,016 Israelis – 1,503 men and 1,513 women – were diagnosed in 2015 with colorectal cancer, a disease that is preventable by undergoing a colonoscopy to find and remove precancerous polyps in the large intestine at an early stage, according to the Israel Cancer Association.

Israel ranks eighth in the world in colorectal cancer among women and 14th for men. At the same time, however, the death rate from the malignancy is slightly lower than the OECD average. During the past 25 years, the rate of early diagnosis has risen from 17% to 31%. Some 60% of the target population for screening tests were tested in 2015, said ICA director-general Miri Ziv at a briefing on Tuesday to mark March as International Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziv and the Health Ministry called on people ages 50 to 74 – and those ages 40 to 49 who have a first-degree relative who had colon cancer – to undergo occultblood testing with a fecal sample once a year. The test can save lives, she said. Anyone found positive for blood in the stool will be referred to their health fund for a free colonoscopy.

“In 2015, colorectal cancer was the second-most-common cancer in Jewish men after prostate cancer and the second- most-common malignancy in Jewish women after breast cancer,” said Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, deputy-director of the ministry’s Center for Disease Control. Among Arab men, colon cancer was the second-most-common malignancy after lung cancer (because of very high smoking rates in that population) and the second-most-common malignancy in Arab women after breast cancer.”

The national health services basket includes a free blood test of stool as part of an early detection program for colorectal cancer initiated by the ICA.

A 2017 US university study that included researchers from Harvard University was done on 1,599 men and women ages 66 to 69 who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The participants were asked how often they drank coffee. Those who consumed at least four cups a day after their diagnosis had a 52% lower risk of death from colorectal cancer and a 30% reduction in mortality from all causes. The consumption of two cups of coffee or more per day, compared with non-consumption among colon cancer survivors, was associated with a lower risk of death. “Further studies are needed to investigate the mechanisms by which coffee may reduce the progression of colon cancer,” the authors wrote.

To reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, gastroenterologists recommend maintaining a healthy body weight; exercising regularly; avoiding high-calorie sweetened beverages; consuming a lot of fiber from fruits, vegetables and nuts; avoiding processed meat; reducing salt and alcohol consumption; and taking safe dosages of vitamin D regularly.

The ICA invites people to call its 24-hour cancer information center at 1-800-599-995 to get questions answered and receive a free, updated leaflet on the prevention and early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

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