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Bowel cancer home-test kits unused by half of over 60s

In 2015, only 49% returned their kits – which is down from 53% in 2010

Of those aged over 60 who were sent a home-testing kit for bowel cancer in England, half did not return them.

In 2015, only 49% returned their kits – which is down from 53% in 2010. According to research from the European Journal of Cancer, it was also found that those living in poorer areas were less likely to take part than those in wealthier areas.

‘The fact fewer and fewer people are returning their kits and that inequalities in the system are widening is very worrying,’ said Christian von Wagner, lead researched at University College London.

‘There is an urgent need to revolutionise bowel cancer screening because the earlier cancer is spotted, the more lives can be saved.’

The test, called the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), requires participants to send stool samples in the post via specially sealed envelopes. Mr von Wagner also said that the research shown the new FIT test could increase uptake by 7%.

The study, which analysed data from 4.4 million men and women who have been sent the kits over 5 years – they found that while 56% of women returned samples, only 47% of men did.

‘Our bowel cancer screening programme is extremely effective at detecting early disease before symptoms show themselves, so it's very concerning that so many people are missing out on this potential health benefit,’ said Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK.

Earlier this month it was announced that bowel cancer screening in England would begin 10 years sooner, at 50 years old, in the hope that more cancers will be picked up earlier.

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, currently seeing 42,000 people diagnosed every year and more than 16,000 people who die as a result of it.