LETTER: Colon campaign? Here it is ...

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The Independent Online
From Ms Wendy Atkin

Sir: Polly Toynbee asks "Where are the colon campaigners?" (6 September).

Here we are. We have proposed that a "once in a lifetime" test which detects and removes pre-cancerous polyps might prevent about 40 per cent of bowel cancers in people screened. We are now at the initial stages of a rigorous scientific trial to test this estimate and whether it is cost effective.

As with breast screening, bowel screening holds the promise of preventing some deaths, but far from all of them. It is still worth pursuing for common illnesses - for instance, bowel cancer screening might save up to 3,000 lives a year in this country. To do better we need more research, not only into treatments but also into discovering better screening tests. Yours truly,

Wendy Atkin

Clinical Epidemiologist

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

London, WC2