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Bowel cancer tests "to save lives"

A relatively new screening programme that tests for bowel cancer is expected to save more than 2,200 lives a year by 2025, according to researchers.

Research published in the Journal of Medical Screening suggests that between 2,200 and 2,700 lives will be saved every year thanks to testing kits posted to people's homes.

People aged between 60 and 74 will receive the tests – known as faecal occult blood (FOB) tests – once every two years.

The programme, which started in England last year, will be rolled out across the whole country by December 2009.

In Scotland, screening is offered to everyone aged 50 to 74, while Wales is hoping to start implementing bowel cancer screening soon. Officials in Northern Ireland have yet to announce whether they will introduce the programme.

The kit involves people giving a stool sample to test for tiny amounts of blood, with samples being sent off to a laboratory which can be an early sign of bowel cancer. The results are posted back within two weeks.

More than 36,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK and about 16,000 people die from it annually. Four out of five people diagnosed at an early stage recover from the disease.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Journal of Medical Screening