Colon Cancer Screening – Risky?

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

Another BBC correspondent has gone on air to admit to having cancer of the colon. He has advised people to have checks – which usually means colonoscopy.

What I have not seen him mention is that there are real risks with colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is not an entirely safe procedure. Taking a sample biopsy can cause bleeding. And sometimes there can be a perforation of the bowel. This can be seriously problematical. How common are these problems? Well, one official figure is that between 1 in 40 and 1 in 50 patients will have a serious complication. That is described as a ‘low risk’. Personally, I don’t think those odds are ‘low’ when dealing with a healthy patient. And the risks are even greater when the patient is elderly. I suspect that the risks are also enhanced when the patient suffers from a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome where the bowel wall is stretched and thin.

There are, of course other risks.

All screening programmes can produce false positives and false negatives. And there is the risk of any anaesthetic used. And the risk of being in a hospital environment where infections may be commonplace (particularly in NHS hospitals in the UK).

The screening enthusiasts don’t always discuss these risks.

I certainly don’t want to put people off having bowel screening.

But I do think that the risks of any screening programme or procedure should always be mentioned. How else can patients make an informed decision?

More worryingly than this, however, is the fact that the BBC will not routinely warn viewers and listeners of the link between eating meat and the development of cancer – including bowel cancer.

The evidence showing that meat causes cancer is irrefutable.

My book Food for Thought contains summaries of 26 scientific papers which prove the link.

But neither the BBC nor other media outlets will dare to make the link public because they are frightened of the meat industry. I have been banned by the media for daring to make this connection known (even though I produced the scientific evidence proving the link).


If they had the guts to defy the rich and powerful meat industry and to broadcast and publicise the truth broadcasters and newspapers could save millions of lives.

Copyright Vernon Coleman April 2019

Vernon Coleman’s book Food for Thought is available as an eBook on Amazon.