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Med J Aust. 2010 Jul 5;193(1):37-42.

Fifteen years of bowel cancer screening policy in Australia: putting evidence into practice?

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Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


Bowel cancer kills over 4000 Australians each year. From the late 1980s to October 2005, research evidence guided the development of bowel cancer screening policy proposals, but political, financial and institutional constraints restricted implementation options. Since 2006, the Australian Government has provided a limited bowel cancer screening program, based on what the government deems it can afford, rather than on evidence of what is required to implement a successful population-based screening program. Even a partial program can be implemented in an evidence-based way, and failure to do so threatens to undermine the potential public health gains of a national bowel cancer screening program. To realise the expected public health gains from a national bowel cancer screening program, bowel cancer screening policy should return to its evidence-based beginnings, starting with an analysis of Australian age-specific cost-effectiveness data.

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