So You’re Turning 50?
One of the joys of turning 50 is that your doctor will start recommending a colonoscopy. Many people dread the test, which involves having a tube inserted into the rectum to look for cancers and pre-cancers.
Even so, acceptance has grown tremendously. In 2010, 55 percent of Americans ages 50 to 65 had been tested, nearly three times the rate in 2000, and the figure was even higher, 64 percent, in people over 65.
All that screening seems to be paying off: The incidence of colon cancer in people over 50 has dropped 30 percent in the last 10 years, and deaths have also declined, according to a report published last week by the American Cancer Society.
Good news, but not good enough, experts say. Too many people are still dying: 50,310 expected this year, along with 136,830 new cases. Incidence and death rates are significantly higher in blacks than in whites, for reasons that are not fully understood. More poverty among blacks appears to account for some of the difference, but not all.
This is a disease that can often be cured if it is found early. It is also one of the few types of cancer that can be prevented, by using colonoscopy to find and remove abnormal growths.