Colorectal cancer being diagnosed earlier

Disease’s prevalence among Arabs increases as they adopt Western lifestyle.

There is good news about colorectal cancer, which is a major cause of death in people over the age of 50: Nearly half of those at risk for tumors are now undergoing screening, resulting in a significant increase in early detection and lower death rates, the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) said on Wednesday.
The ICA is launching Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March, to increase public willingness to undergo simple tests for occult blood in stool as well as invasive colonoscopy.
But there is negative news as well: The growing adoption of a more Western lifestyle by Israeli Arabs has raised their prevalence of colorectal cancer, to higher rates close to those of Israeli Jews.
ICA director-general Miri Ziv said that with 48 percent of the target audience going for screening, Israel’s early diagnosis rate for colorectal cancer is similar to the average rate of other Western countries. In addition, survival rates in Israel are even higher than the average among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – thanks to a near-doubling of the rate of early diagnosis in the past decade.
During the past decade, the prevalence of this cancer in the Jewish population has stabilized. The highest rate is among Jewish men – 26.6 cases per 100,000 – while the lowest rate is among Arab women (19.5%).
Due to their adoption of urban Western diets, the rate of colorectal cancer has quadrupled (to more than 24 cases per 100,000) in Arab men since 1990 and more than tripled (to more than 19 cases per 100,000) among Arab women.
Death rates have in the last decade dropped by 28% in the general male population and by 1% in women.
According to Prof. Gad Rennert, director of the ICA’s National Program for Early Colorectal Cancer Detection, over 422,000 tests for occult blood in stool were performed by the health funds in 2011.
Colorectal cancer is prevented by the removal of pre-cancerous polyps in the bowel, done via colonoscopy. Ziv recommended that the public adopt positive lifestyle behaviors to guard against the disease, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise.
The ICA will hold seminars and sponsor other activities in March to promote public awareness of the disease.
On March 5 from 2-3 p.m., experts from Hadassah University Medical Center and Meir Medical Center will answer phone queries from the public on Army Radio.
On March 14, a seminar on colorectal cancer will be held at ICA headquarters in Givatayim. It is open to the general public.