CANCER Council Queensland is alarmed at new research showing bowel cancer screening rates declining, with only 33 per cent of eligible Queenslanders completing the free test.
According to figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week, participation in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program dropped in 2011/12, compared to the previous three years.
In 2008-2011, 38 per cent of eligible Australians returned a completed bowel cancer screening test. In the latest report, 2011/12, participation dropped to just 35 per cent.
The participation rate for eligible Queenslanders was alarmingly lower than the national average - at just 33 per cent.
Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift said bowel cancer screening tests were critical in ensuring early detection, and potentially saving lives.
"In Queensland, bowel cancer is the third-highest cause of cancer death for both males and females," Ms Clift said.
"It's crucial that if you are aged over 50, you participate in recommended bowel cancer screenings every two years, and discuss these screenings with your GP.
"This simple test, known as a Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) has the power to save lives.
"Bowel cancer is also known as one of the most preventable cancers. It's important that Queenslanders make simple lifestyle adjustments to reduce their risk of bowel cancer.
"Getting 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day, eating a well-balanced diet, limiting or avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking are all ways people can reduce their risk."
In Queensland, around 2800 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. About 980 people die from the disease.
Queenslanders aged 50, 55, 60 and 65 are eligible to take part in the free National Bowel Cancer Screening program, while other Queenslanders can chat to their GP or pharmacist to access a test kit.
Cancer Council Queensland recommends all Queenslanders undertake recommended screening for all cancers.
"Early detection is crucial in the fight against cancer, and in improving cancer survival rates across the board for both males and females," Ms Clift said.
"Talk to your GP regularly about necessary check-ups and screenings, and consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your overall health.
"Your personal health is too important to ignore."
Queenslanders can join the QUEST to help reduce their risk of cancer at www.cancerqld.org.au/quest.
More information about Cancer Council Queensland, including screening recommendations, is available at www.cancerqld.org.au or Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.