More Screenings Put Dent in Colon Cancer reads a March 17 headline in the Wall Street Journal. Right smack in the middle of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, the story couldn't have been timed more perfectly.
Colorectal cancer incidence rates in Americans over the age of 50 dropped 30% over the past decade, says the article. Why? More people are getting colonoscopies. Here's a short excerpt from the WSJ:
The incidence of colon cancer, declining since the mid-1980s, plunged a further 30% last decade among Americans 50 and older as more people had colonoscopies, a new study found.
The drop in colon-cancer death rates accelerated as well, falling about 3% a year between 2001 and 2010, compared with 2% a year in the previous decade, according to the American Cancer Society study of government data.
American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley estimated that without the widespread screening efforts that began in the 1980s, "we'd be seeing twice as many deaths today. This study celebrates the fact that we've almost halved the mortality rate from colon cancer in the last 35 years."
Despite such solid data, many Americans still skip the recommended colonoscopy due to the discomfort associated with the procedure. But Vanderbilt researchers have developed an easier and less painful approach.
Byron Smith, Vanderbilt engineer, and Pietro Valdastri, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, worked closely with Vanderbilt Gastroenterologist Keith Obstein to develop an inexpensive device that attaches to an endoscope and produces CO2 rather than room air to inflate the colon. (CO2 is absorbed 150 times faster by the body, therefore creating less pain for the patient and faster recovery time.)
Smith, Valdastri, and CTTC New Ventures Manager Rigved Joshi recently participated in the NSF Innovation Corps, a six-month business accelerator. The team is now working to commercialize the technology.