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Colon Cancer Rates Drop Sharply, Credits to Screenings

Update Date: Mar 17, 2014 10:36 AM EDT

Colon cancer rates have dropped by 30 percent in the past ten years in people over age 50 and the credits goes to colonoscopies, according to a new report. 

"This is one of the great public health success stories of the decade," said Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, according to USA Today.

Doctors are recommending that people at average risk should get screened for colon cancer at age 50 so as a result the screening rates have also climbed in recent years. 

The number of Americans ages 50 to 64 who have had a colonoscopy - which allow doctors to detect and remove polyps before they turn malignant - has nearly tripled, growing from 19% in 2000 to 55% in 2010, reported USA Today.

The rate has also increased among those age 65 and over which grew from 55 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2010, the report noted. The American Cancer Society has set a goal of screening 80 percent of eligible people by 2018.

"We hope that we get the number much closer to zero by getting the at-risk population access to colorectal cancer screening," said Arun Swaminath, a gastroenterologist and director of inflammatory bowel disease at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, who wasn't involved in the new study, according to USA Today.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the country and according to estimations, 136,830 Americans will be diagnosed with the disease and around 50,000 will die from it this year.

"It's really reassuring that we are making progress," said Charles Fuchs, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

"Beyond telling people to get a colonoscopy, we need to counsel people to eat a balanced diet and exercise," Fuchs added.

The report has been published in the journal Cancer.

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