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Europe is falling behind America in the fight against colorectal cancer due to low screening uptake say experts

Annual incidence of Europe’s second most lethal cancer killer is predicted to rise by 12% by 2020[1] warns Europe’s largest body of gastroenterology experts, (UEG). is estimated to claim the lives of 214,675[2] adults in Europe and is expected to affect 502,000 Europeans a year by 2020[1].

Colorectal cancer is extremely lethal in its advanced stages yet early detection can result in a 90-95% survival rate. Early signs of colorectal cancer do not exist or are difficult to spot but can be detected via a simple screening test (the Faecal Occult Blood Test) that can be performed at home. Widely available across Europe, the FOBT is generally offered to men and women over the age of 50 via an invitation from their doctor or a national screening programme. However, uptake throughout Europe has been surprisingly low, with the percentage of eligible adults screened in many countries falling way short of the 65% rate considered desirable by the European Commission and already achieved in the USA[3].

While Europe’s promotion of organised national screening programmes is seen as preferable to America’s ‘opportunistic’ approach, UEG experts say Europe can learn from the USA when it to comes to pushing CRC to the forefront of public life. Annual campaigns fronted by Meryl Streep and other Hollywood stars, nationwide ‘Dress in Blue Days’ and a White House colorectal cancer statement issued by President Obama earlier this month are all helping to raise the profile of the disease and the importance of screening across the Atlantic.

“United European Gastroenterology has campaigned for screening for colorectal cancer to be available to all European citizens; we are now urging the European population to participate and to be aware that FOBT screening reduces the risk of dying from colorectal cancer by 20-30%. Colorectal cancer is treatable when detected early, yet it is estimated to claim the lives of over 500 Europeans every day,” says British gastroenterologist and UEG President, Professor Michael Farthing.

As the world marks Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (March) UEG is launching a new awareness campaign, ‘Screening Saves Lives’, urging all European men and women over 50 to talk to a healthcare professional and undertake screening for colorectal cancer.


United European Gastroenterology