Even though they face a higher risk of developing bowel cancer, older men are less likely to participate in diagnostic screening for the disease.
In the twelve months from August 2006, close to 450,000 screening kits were sent to people between the ages of 55 and 65 in a bid to improve early detection rates.
Overall about 180,000 people took advantage of the opportunity but participation rates were almost 20 per cent higher among 65 year-olds than 55 year-olds.
Blood in the faeces was detected in seven per cent of the completed tests and men were 40 per cent more likely to have blood detected than women.
“Despite this fact, and the fact that men aged 55–74 years are 58 per cent more likely to develop bowel cancer than women, participation in screening was almost 20 per cent higher in women,” said Melissa Goodwin from the AIHW’s Health Registers and Cancer Monitoring Unit.
Pre-cancerous polyps or cancers were detected in 63 per cent of the positive results that were further investigated by colonoscopy.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia, claiming up to 4100 lives each year. The risk of contracting it increases with age.
By the age of 85, men have a one in 10 chance of developing bowel cancer while one in 14 women develop the disease.