Ethnicity, age contributing to low bowel cancer screening rates

Ethnicity and age are leading causes for low uptake of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program in Australia, rather than geographic location, new research shows.


A study, led by researchers at Cancer Council Queensland and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), found that differences in socio-demographic characteristics were contributing to low uptake of the national screening program.


Currently, across Australia only 41 per cent of eligible men and women take part in the bowel cancer screening program.


USQ Professor (Social and Behavioral Science), Jeff Dunn AO, said that while geographic disparities were evident, living remotely was not the driving cause for low screening rates.


“The study showed that socio-demographic characteristics, particularly Indigenous status, cultural background and age, were the main drivers of disparities,” Professor Dunn said.


“Around 28 per cent of people living in remote areas took part in the bowel cancer screening program throughout the time period observed, compared with 33 per cent of people in outer regional areas and major cities.


“However, men and women living in inner regional areas, showed the highest participation rates at around 36 per cent.


“There is strong evidence that the low participation in the most remote areas is due to a poor uptake by Indigenous Australians and a younger population, rather than access to screening.


“Participation in the national bowel screening program among indigenous Australians is estimated to be 2.3 times lower than non-Indigenous individuals.”


Professor Dunn said the study provided important evidence to help researchers better understand the geographic disparities in participating in the program and will help inform the development of effective strategies to address this.


In Australia more than 15,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year.


Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan urged eligible Australians to take part in the screening program.


“We encourage everyone who is eligible to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to help save lives,” Ms McMillan said.


“The program currently invites men and women turning 50, 54, 58, 60, 62, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72 and 74 to screen.


“Screening and early detection ensures those diagnosed have a better chance of successfully treating and surviving the disease.”


24 June 2018.