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Study: Methylene Blue Dye Ups Colonoscopy Outcomes by Nine Percent

Rachel Morrell

Methylene Blue Tablets Poured Out of Bottle

A blue dye tablet could help GI doctors find precancerous polyps during a colonoscopy.

The goal of a colonoscopy is to inspect the entire colon for precancerous colon polyps called adenomas. If adenomas are detected during the screening, a gastroenterologist will remove them so they cannot develop into cancerous growths. A physician’s ability to detect adenomas determines his or her adenoma detection rate (ADR), the primary quality indicator in colonoscopy. ADR is defined as the percentage of patients in whom a physician detects adenomas during screening colonoscopies.

According to a study led by Alessandro Repici, M.D., of Humanities University Medical School in Milan, Italy, using a blue dye tablet during a colonoscopy can boost ADR by almost nine percent. Certain types of growths like flat adenomas are challenging to detect, but blue dye can help GI specialists identify and remove polyps that could become cancerous.

Dr. Repici and his team studied over 1,200 colonoscopy patients at 20 locations. Patients received either a full dose of oral delayed-release methylene blue, a half-dose of the dye or a placebo. The group that received the full dose of blue dye exhibited a nine percent higher ADR, and physicians were able to detect more flat and small growths.

In the past, gastroenterologists have used blue dye during colonoscopy, but the dye was sprayed into the colon during the exam. The oral delayed-release tablet provides a new form of delivery for the blue dye, providing more efficient colon polyp detection without any harmful side effects.

Increasing physician ADR is important because, with every percentage point increase in ADR, colon cancer risk decreases by three percent and colon cancer mortality risk decreases by five percent (New England Journal of Medicine).

We all need to do our part in colon cancer prevention, regardless of our age, ethnicity or gender.  According to the American Cancer Society, 97,220 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year. Because young-onset colon cancer incidence is rapidly increasing, the American Cancer Society suggests that colon cancer screening should begin at age 45 instead of 50.  

Your risk for colon cancer depends on several factors like family history, personal health history, diet and activity level. Your lifestyle habits like smoking and alcohol use also contribute to your risk. If you have never been screened for colon cancer, talk to your doctor about when you should have your first colonoscopy. If you have a family history of colon cancer or hereditary colon cancer syndrome, you need to be screened earlier and more often than people who are at average risk for the disease.

It’s also essential to be aware of the warning signs of colon cancer. If you experience bowel changes, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, nausea or vomiting, you need to see a gastroenterologist. Our board-certified GI specialists are prepared to provide you with compassionate care and effective treatment. Click here to locate a GI center near you.

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