adult screening programme

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is the general name given to cancer that begins in the large bowel. It can also be referred to as colon cancer and colorectal cancer. Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.

Read more about bowel cancer on the NHS website.

UK NSC screening recommendation Based on the last UK NSC review of this condition that occurred in August 2018.

Screening for this condition is recommended.

Screening for bowel cancer should be offered every 2 years to men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 in the UK using the faecal-immunochemical test (FIT).

In July 2020, the UK NSC recommended the permanent discontinuation of bowel scope in the English Bowel Screening Programme. This is because:

  • FIT screening from 50 years old (reduced from 60 years old) is effective in reducing deaths from bowel cancer and may also help prevent it
  • it is unclear whether offering both bowel scope and FIT screening to people from 50 years old provides additional benefit to FIT testing alone - further research would be needed to find this out
  • the bowel scope test is intrusive and difficult to implement
  • all bowel cancer screening was temporarily suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, and stopping bowel scope screening permanently will allow service providers to focus on restoring screening

The UK NSC has endorsed the use of digital pathology as an alternative option to light microscopy for the review of bowel cancer screening histopathology slides. This followed a consultation into the results of Health Technology Assessment study that found that digital pathology performs as well as light microscopy in cancer screening.

Supporting documents from the 2018 review

Evidence summary Bowel Cancer (2018)
This document provides the evidence on which the current UK NSC recommendation is based.

UK NSC Coversheet Bowel cancer (2018)
This document summarises the review process including the public consultation comments.

Screening around the UK

The UK NSC recommends screening for this condition, however this may vary slightly depending on where you are in the UK.

Review cycle

Date previous review completed: 2018

Next review estimated to be completed: 2023 to 2024.

To see previous evidence reviews, visit the UK NSC archive.

Organisations interested in Bowel cancer

These organisations have expressed interest in this recommendation and may submit responses to evidence reviews.

List of organisations

If you think your organisation should be added, please contact us.