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The National Cancer Institute and several cancer organizations paid for the study.
Government and private cancer groups also funded the second study in the journal, led by researchers in Spain. About 53,000 participants were given a colonoscopy or a stool blood test. Both tests found similar numbers of colon cancer cases -- about 30 in each group.
However, colonoscopies found advanced growths in twice as many people -- 514 versus 231 of those given the stool test. Colonoscopy also found 10 times more people with less serious growths than the stool test did.
Neither test proved very appealing -- only a quarter of patients offered a colonoscopy had one. Similarly, only a third agreed to the offered stool test.
The Spanish study is continuing and similar research in the U.S. and Norway that began recently is looking at the long-term impacts of colonoscopy.
Stephen Raquet, of Mount Kisco, N.Y., finds the test reassuring even if the preparation is unpleasant. He had his first colonoscopy 13 years ago at age 41, earlier than usual because of a family history of colon cancer.
The sudden death of his 45-year-old sister from the disease prompted Raquet to get checked out. He had a precancerous growth removed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in 1999, and has had the test every three years since.
During his last appointment four months ago, doctors said he can come back in five years.
"It's given me peace of mind," said the 54-year-old business executive.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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