New research demonstrates that regular colonoscopies could save lives by helping doctors in identifying and removing colon polyps in their precancerous stages, as well as by their traditional function of early colon cancer diagnosis.

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The study was the largest and longest follow up ever conducted on polyp patients and it found that removing the polyps was associated with a 50% reduction in expected colon cancer deaths.

Researcher Ann G. Zauber, PhD, a biostatistician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said the research confirmed what had been suspected for a long time:

“You would expect to reduce deaths from colorectal cancer when you remove the adenomas that cause them, but we really haven’t had the data to prove it until now,” she said, adding that the findings are in line with the current colorectal cancer screening recommendations.

The study included just over 2600 patients who had precancerous colon polyps removed during colonoscopy screenings.

Afterwards the patients were tracked for an average of 16 years and the longest follow-up lasted 23 years.

Four out of five of the polyp patients also received extra surveillance and colonoscopy procedures, as had been recommended.

Sometimes a follow-up colonoscopy is recommended three to five years after any polyps are removed. The recommended time interval for repeat colonoscopies is based on factors such as the number and the type of polyps found, so it tends to vary between patients.

In the patients on the study, detection and removal of the polyps was linked with a 53% reduction in death from colon cancer compared to expected deaths in the general population of the same age and gender.

To read the next part of this story please check out ‘Colonoscopy and Bowel Cancer: New Research Part 2′.