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  • South Australia’s disadvantaged fall behind in bowel cancer

    31 July 2019

    New Cancer Council analysis has shown that South Australians living in our most disadvantaged areas have significantly higher bowel cancer incidence rates and are falling behind in bowel cancer screening compared to other South Australians.

    The Australian Cancer Atlas Shows that in 2010-2014, 37 per cent of the most disadvantaged metropolitan and country areas in South Australia had a higher than average incidence of bowel cancer. By comparison, 75 per cent of the most advantaged metropolitan and country areas in South Australia had a lower than average incidence of bowel cancer.

    Simultaneously, the most recent data on participation rates shows that some of the most disadvantaged areas in the state also have some of the lowest bowel screening rates.

    The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is designed to detect blood in the stool, which can be a sign of cancer or pre-cancerous lesions. If found early, 90 per cent of bowel cancers can be successfully treated.

    Alana Sparrow, General Manager of Services, Research and Public Policy at Cancer Council SA said, “Australia has some of the best cancer outcomes in the world however our most disadvantaged South Australians are falling behind. 

    “Participating in the National Bowel Screening Program is one of the ways that you can reduce your risk of dying from bowel cancer.”

    “The disparity between our most and least advantaged regions returning their bowel cancer screening kits shows that even though the test is being sent to all South Australians aged 50-74, we need to remind all South Australians of the importance of completing the life-saving test. 

    Ms Sparrow continued, “In addition to lifting screening rates, we also need to be educating South Australians about the factors that increase their risk of developing bowel cancer. 

    “Risk factors for bowel cancer include age, family history, inflammatory bowel disease, poor diet, physical inactivity, drinking alcohol, obesity and smoking. 

    “Quitting smoking, being active, enjoying a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, limiting red and processed meats, reducing alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy body weight all contribute to reducing your risk and we would encourage all South Australians to take steps to reduce their risk. In fact, up to almost 50 per cent of bowel cancers in Australia are attributable to these modifiable lifestyle factors.”

    Nationally, only four in 10 eligible Australians complete the test from the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Studies have shown, if this figure is increased to six in 10 it could save 84,000 lives over the next 20 years.

    Free bowel screening tests are sent to Australians every second year from age 50-74 through the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. 

    All Australians should be aware of the symptoms of bowel cancer such as unexplained blood in their stool or toilet bowl, persistent changes in bowel habits, persistent abdominal pain or cramping or unexplained weight loss, and get anything unusual checked regardless of their age or when they last completed the screening test.

    Cancer Council’s national bowel screening campaign is funded through a $10 million Federal Government grant. 


    About the Australian Cancer Atlas
    The Australian Cancer Atlas is a collaborative project being developed by statisticians, cancer researchers, visualisation experts and IT specialists from Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and representatives from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), supported by the FrontierSI (formerly the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information), with additional input from government, community members, consumers and the media. The Atlas has additional support from the Centre for Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer Survivorship. The Atlas has been endorsed by the Australasian Association of Cancer Registries and Cancer Council Australia, and investigators access expertise from the Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS). You can access the atlas at: https://atlas.cancer.org.au

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