To say colonoscopies are unpopular would be an understatement, but the procedure definitely saves lives, a new study finds. The research, which confirms what doctors have long believed, found that the death rate from colon cancer was cut by 53% among people who had the test and had precancerous growths called polyps removed, reports the New York Times. The study tracked thousands of patients for as long as 20 years.
"For any cancer screening test, reduction of cancer-related mortality is the holy grail," a gastrointestinal oncologist notes. The research comes as other studies cast doubt on the life-saving potential of other cancer screening procedures, including prostate cancer screening. Colon cancer is the third deadliest kind of cancer in the US, killing some 50,000 people a year. Experts recommend that people get the test—which involves inspecting the intestine with a camera-tipped tube—beginning at age 50. (Read more colonoscopy stories.)