Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in Arizona, with 2,213 cases in 2006 (according to our Cancer Data Query System) But only about half the folks in Arizona take advantage of a simple screening test that can save their life. Last week, The Lancet published the first clinical trial that clearly demonstrates that getting the test and removing any polyps that are found save lots of lives.

The test is recommended for everyone right after their 50th birthday (when you get your AARP application stuff in the mail) and consists of a flexible tube with a small camera that examines the lower third of the bowel, where more than half of all bowel cancers occur.  The new study found that after 11 years of follow-up, the incidence of colorectal cancer in those who did the test was reduced by 31% and deaths from the cancer were reduced by 43%.  The test is best in the early 50s because people have virtually all the polyps they’re ever going to have by the time they’re in their mid-50s.  If you remove them at that point, you’re pretty much OK.