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Health & Consumer Voice - March - 2011 Edition

New EU Guidelines on Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

On 3 February, on the eve of the World Cancer Day, the European Commission published the first edition of the "European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis".

Colorectal cancer is the second most common newly diagnosed cancer in the EU. It is also the second most common cause of cancer death in the EU, accounting for one in seven new cancers and one in eight cancer deaths. Improving diagnosis and screening is therefore key to reduce the mortality rates.

The EU Guidelines on colorectal cancer screening aim to raise quality standards by providing guiding principles and evidence-based recommendations on quality assurance which should be followed when implementing colorectal screening programmes in the EU Member States. They cover the entire screening process - from invitation and organisation, through to diagnosis and management of lesions detected.

The publication provides indeed the first ever set of uniform guidelines on all the steps necessary for effective colorectal cancer screening in the EU. By implementing them, Member States have the potential to organise their health systems more effectively, including the diagnosis and management of cancers detected in screening. There is good evidence that population-based screening using the EU-recommended test reduces mortality from colorectal cancer by around 15% in people of appropriate age (50 to 74 years) invited to attend screening.

The guidelines, coordinated for the Commission by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (, were developed with the input of over 90 experts from 32 countries, and set a benchmark for best practice in colorectal cancer screening. Widespread application of the Guidelines should also make it easier for experts in the field to exchange information and experience across the EU. This is essential for innovation and continuous quality improvement of existing cancer screening programmes.

The European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli said: "These guidelines on screening help to give patients a chance of receiving timely treatment thanks to early diagnosis of colorectal cancer. For patients, screening and diagnosis can make the difference between life and death. This is why it is important that these guidelines, and the benchmark for best practice in colorectal cancer screening which they set, are indeed followed widely across the EU".

The European Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Colorectal Cancer Screening and Diagnosis is available at the EU Book Shop website or through the following link:


Further information is available at: