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Colonoscopy less effective on right side: study

Colonoscopy appears to be ineffective at preventing death from cancers that originate in the right side of the colon, says a report co-written by Dr. Nancy Baxter of St. Michael's Hospital.

Toronto, December 16, 2008

Dr. Nancy Baxter Dr. Nancy Baxter (Photo credit: Michelle Gibson)

Colonoscopy appears to reduce the overall risk of death from colorectal cancer, a new study suggests, but it is ineffective at preventing death from cancers that originate in the right side of the colon.

Researchers studied the health records of more than 10,000 people aged 52-90 years who received a colorectal cancer diagnosis between 1996 and 2001 and who had died of the disease prior to 2003 and compared history of colonoscopy to over 50,000 people who had not died of colorectal cancer selected randomly from the Ontario population. The study sheds light on the need to explore the differences in cancer development between the left and right sides of the colon.

“While colonoscopy remains the gold standard for evaluation of the colon, our study sheds light on some of the real-world limitations of this practice for screening and prevention,” says Dr. Nancy Baxter, a colorectal surgeon and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital and scientist at the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences (ICES). “At the same time, the findings suggest there may also be opportunities to improve the quality of the test.”

Baxter was the lead author of the study, published today on the Annals of Internal Medicine website and in print in the January 6, 2009 issue.

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