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Report shows identifying cancers through screening reduces mortality risk

Photo: Screening-diagnosed cancers less deadly
A new report has found those diagnosed with some cancers through screening are less likely to die from them than those who are not.

Australians diagnosed with breast, cervical or bowel cancer through screening tests are less likely to die from the diseases than those diagnosed by other means, a new report has found.

The study has also revealed the most disadvantaged Australians are the least likely to be screened for the cancers.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has for the first time combined data from the country's three cancer screening programs, dating back to 2002, along with national data on deaths.

In the case of each of the programs - for breast, cervical and bowel cancer - people diagnosed through screening were less likely to have died from the diseases by the end of 2015 than people with the conditions who had never been screened.
For cervical cancer, those diagnosed through screening had an 87 per cent lower risk of dying from the disease than those who weren't.

Those diagnosed with breast cancer through screening had a 42 per cent lower risk of being killed by the condition, while those diagnosed with bowel cancer through screening had a 40 per cent lower risk, with statistical biases accounted for.

Identifying the diseases early has a role in the trend, the report suggests.

"Because the screening test is used on individuals without overt signs or symptoms of the disease, screening is able to detect disease at an earlier stage, which can lead to better outcomes than if the disease was detected at a later stage," it said.

The study, which looked at the experiences of more than 15 million people, has also painted a picture of who is most likely to be screened.

When it comes to socio-economic groups, Australians considered the most disadvantaged had the lowest participation in all three screening programs.

In terms of remoteness areas, the highest number of participants for cervical screening were in major cities and inner regional areas.

But for breast and bowel cancer screening, participation was highest in inner and outer regional areas.

The study estimated Indigenous Australians were far less likely to participate in each of the screening programs.

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