International experts discuss about the importance of screening programs in the fight against colorectal cancer

International experts meet from 24 to 28 October in Barcelona at the European Congress of Gastroenterology (United European Gastroenterology Week) to discuss about the latest advances in research, diagnosis and treatment of digestive diseases. Special emphasis is placed on the fight against colorectal cancer, since, according to experts, Spain is lagging behind due to low deposit rates in screening programs. Dr. Antoni Castells, head of the Institute of Digestive and Metabolic Diseases (ICMDM) at Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, has been appointed United European Gastroenterology spokesperson on colorectal cancer screening programmes and is presenting today the results of his research in this field.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer worldwide, with one million new cases per year, and the second leading cause of cancer death. According to the Spanish Society for Medical Oncology (SEOM), 30,230 people in Spain will be diagnosed of CRC in 2015, becoming the highest incidence rate of all cancers in Spain, with men affected almost twice as much as women. Screening programs for this type of tumor are key for the identification of the disease at earlier stages, thus improving prognosis.

Although Spain has one of the highest CRC incidence rates in Western Europe, is lagging behind the rest of european countries in the fight against colorectal cancer with CRC screening participation rates of only 34%, long way off the EU target of a 65% screening participation rate.

"Participation in CRC screening programs in Spain is worryingly low and there is no doubt that people are put off by a lack of awareness, the nature of current tests and the limited implementation of the programs organized in certain regions" explains Dr. Castells. "Whilst there are encouraging signs in certain areas of Spain, such as a 47% participation rate in Barcelona’s CRC screening program and 65% in the Basque country, we still have a long way to go if we are to meet our European targets nationally", he adds.

Dr. Castells is part of a team of international experts who are looking for new techniques for CRC screening in order to improve testing, participation and, ultimately, mortality rates. "These potential new CRC screening approaches have shown promise in preliminary studies and should be explored further in larger cohorts of patients. Having a non-invasive, accurate and blood-based detection method, would reduce the number of patients reluctant to be screened”, concludes Dr. Castells.