On the occasion of World Colon Cancer Day, which is celebrated today, the Regional Ministry of Health and Families, through the Directorate General of Public Health and Pharmaceutical Organisation, recalls the importance of early detection of this disease and calls for public participation in its screening programme. This programme consists of inviting all Andalusians between the ages of 50 and 69 to take a simple and painless test that analyses the presence of blood in the stool. In the event of a positive result, an appointment will be made at your health centre to inform you and recommend further examinations.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in developed countries, with an increasing incidence in recent decades. In Andalusia, it is the most frequently diagnosed tumour in men and women. According to sources from the Andalusian Health Service, new cases diagnosed in 2020 totalled 6,029 (2,456 women and 3,573 men). By 2022, an estimated 43,370 new cases of colon and rectal cancer will be diagnosed in Spain (16,508 in women and 26,872 in men), according to the Spanish Network of Cancer Registries (REDECAN).
Colon cancer can be cured in 90% of cases if it is detected in the early stages or in the form of pre-malignant lesions. In the short term, this early detection reduces mortality by between 30% and 35%, which in Spain would be equivalent to saving around 4,000 lives each year.
To date, the colon cancer screening programme has been extended to 94.44% of the target population in Andalusia. A total of 2,190,013 letters have been sent out to participate in the process, but in the end, only 21.37% have turned up to give the sample to the health centre. In total, since its implementation, 465,242 stool collection tests have been administered, more than 22,193 colonoscopies have been performed, which has allowed 16,069 polyps to be removed, of which 4,832 were high-risk. This is a major benefit for people who have been prevented from developing colorectal cancer. In addition, 451 invasive cancers have been detected.
The Directorate General for Public Health and Pharmaceutical Organisation has launched an information campaign to raise awareness among Andalusian women and men aged 50-69 of the importance of participating in the screening programme. Under the slogan ‘Move yourself against cancer’, the Andalusian Regional Government will provide all citizens with audiovisual and graphic information material, produced with funds from the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, to disseminate this initiative.
Prevention and early diagnosis of colon and rectal cancer
Colon and rectal cancer involves genetic and environmental risk factors, with lifestyle-related risk factors being the most important. Only 5-10% of cases can be considered hereditary and 20% familial, while 70% are sporadic.
In addition to early diagnosis, it is important to improve lifestyles to reduce the likelihood of developing the disease. Amongst the risk factors that promote it are those related to lifestyles such as overweight and obesity; the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, red and processed meats; and diabetes. However, there are protective factors against this disease, such as moderate physical activity and a diet low in fat and rich in vegetables, fruit and fibre.