In what could be called a major breakthrough, scientists claim to have developed a “screening test” which takes just five minutes to detect bowel cancer and also reduces the risk of developing the disease substantially.

The new test, which involves the quick removal of growths with the potential to turn cancerous, has been devised following a 16—year—old study, The Lancet reported.

The study of more than 170,000 volunteers aged between 55 and 64 suggested that the examination of the lower colon and rectum reduced deaths by 43 per cent. In the study group examined, incidence of bowel cancer fell by a third.

A quarter of the volunteers in the study underwent a sigmoidoscopy, where a camera mounted on a thin, flexible tube, known as a FlexiScope, was inserted about a third of the way into the bowel.

According to the scientists, most bowel cancers stem from polyps or symptomless growths in the rectum and colon and where these were found, they were removed in a safe and pain— free procedure.

“Our study shows for the first time that we could dramatically reduce incidence of bowel cancer and the number of people dying from the disease by using this one—off test.

“No other bowel cancer screening technique has ever been shown to prevent the disease,” The Times quoted Wendy Atkin of Imperial College London, who led the study, as saying.

Experts have welcomed the new test.

Harpal Kumar, Chief executive of Cancer Research U.K. described the study, which started in 1994 and is the largest and longest running of its kind, as “one of the rare occasions to use the word ‘breakthrough’.

“It is extremely rare to see the results of a clinical trial which are quite as compelling as this one and which has quite the huge impact in terms of the potential for improving cancer outcomes,” he said.

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