Every year more than 3000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer and 1200 die from the disease. That is 100 deaths a month from this pernicious disease, about the same as the number who die from breast and prostate cancer combined.
Bowel cancer is more common among those aged over 60, and occurs more among men than women.
For as yet unknown reasons, the country has among the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the world. Risk factors may include diets high in red meat and animal fats and low in fruit and vegetable fibre. Obesity and alcohol also appear to play a role.
New Zealand is slowly rolling out a national screening programme to test for the disease. The budget in May included funding of $38.5 million to support the implementation of the screening plan over the next three years. The programme starts this month in Wairarapa and Hutt Valley.
It has been a gradual process up till now, as a successful trial has been run at Waitemata District Health Board for four years, where patients will join the…