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Early detection of colon cancer: new tests on the horizon.

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Mol Diagn Ther. 2008 12 (2).

This year, the American Cancer Society reported that the rate of decline in both the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer has increased over the last two decades. This success is felt to be attributable to the early detection and treatment of colonic adenomas and early-stage colorectal cancers. However, the current recommended 'menu of options' for screening is limited by poor patient acceptance, low sensitivity, and both high cost and poor accessibility for application to a large general screening population (colonoscopy). Computerized tomography and magnetic resonance colonography offer an alternative method for the identification of polyps and early lesions in certain patients, but have cost, access, and acceptance limitations that are similar to those of colonoscopy; thus, they present similar barriers to their use in broad population screening. These limitations provide a strong rationale for the development of early colorectal cancer detection biomarkers that are simple to use and are cost effective. A successful biomarker or biomarker panel, coupled with the colonoscopic follow-up of only those patients with positive results, would reduce the burden and morbidity associated with the screening of colonoscopy. This would most likely result in enhanced adherence to colorectal screening, as well as a dramatic reduction in the incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer. In this paper, we review recent advances in the discovery of potential colorectal cancer biomarkers. Their applicability to clinical population screening will require large prospective validation.