Providing the evidence to fight cancer and save lives

Large intestine

Our research has made a major contribution to fighting colorectal cancer by informing policy to help reduce the incidence, morbidity and mortality associated with the disease.

Colorectal (bowel) cancer is the third most common cancer - more than 41,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the UK and approximately 16,000 people die of the disease each year.

Researchers from the University's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) undertook a Colorectal Cancer Screening Options Appraisal on behalf of NHS Cancer Screening Programmes and the Department of Health.

The team, led by Dr Paul Tappenden, evaluated the cost-effectiveness and resource implications of potential screening programmes for bowel cancer. This appraisal directly informed the decision to launch a national colorectal cancer screening programme in England.

Upon their 60th/61st birthday, all individuals in England are now invited to participate in biennial bowel cancer screening until the age of 74. The programme identifies individuals with less advanced bowel cancer and there is emerging evidence that it has led to an overall improvement in prognosis.

Dr Tappenden said: "The bowel cancer screening programme has had a positive impact on the prognosis of patients with colorectal cancer and evidence suggests that this will lead to a substantial reduction in colorectal cancer-related deaths."

The work was presented by Dr Tappenden to the English Bowel Cancer Working Party and the options appraisal was later discussed in Parliament. The study was also published as a peer-reviewed report on the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes website.

Following the options appraisal, several further related research projects have been undertaken by ScHARR using the bowel cancer screening model. These include an assessment of early awareness campaigns for colorectal cancer for the Department of Health and an appraisal of colorectal cancer screening options in Ireland for the Health Information and Quality Authority.

"The introduction of a national screening programme for colorectal cancer in England has changed the agenda for health intervention in this area. There is a new focus on increasing participation in screening and promoting the earlier diagnosis of the disease," said Dr Tappenden.