(HealthDay News) — Boosting older adults’ colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% by 2018 would lead to 21,000 fewer deaths from the cancer each year in the United States by 2030, according to research published March 12 in Cancer.

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Yet in 2013, only 58% of American adults aged 50–75 underwent recommended screening for it, the study authors said.

An initiative to get four out of five older adults screened for colorectal cancer by 2018 was recently launched by the cancer roundtable, a coalition of public, private, and volunteer organizations. Researchers used a computer model to estimate the potential benefits of 80 percent screening rates among adults aged 50–75.

That level of screening would reduce colorectal cancer incidence rates by 17% and death rates by 19% by 2020. Over the long term, greater gains were predicted, with new cases and deaths declining 22 and 33%, respectively, from 2013–2030. “The barriers to increasing colorectal cancer screening in the United States are significant and numerous,” Richard Wender, MD, chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, said in a journal news release. “But this study shows that investing in efforts to clear these hurdles will result in a major cancer prevention success.”

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