||The Scottish Executive is to provide bowel cancer screening for everyone in Scotland between the ages of 50 and 74 in a move that could save 150 lives every year.
The programme, which has already been piloted in Tayside, Grampian and Fife, will be rolled out from March 2007 and will be available nationwide from 2009.
Scotland has one of Europe’s highest death rates from bowel cancer, with 1,550 people killed by the disease last year.
Faecal occult blood testing kits will be sent to 650,000 50 to 74-year-olds so they can provide stool samples at home to return for testing.
Andy Kerr, the health minister, said: "If a cancer is identified early, treatment can be delivered quickly and survival rates improve."
The scheme, which will cost £19.5m, is more comprehensive than the equivalent programme in England, which will cover people aged 60 to 69 when it is launched in 2006.
However, campaigners are concerned that the “embarrassment factor” in sending in stool samples will dissuade people from using the service. In the pilot regions, only 60 per cent of people agreed to be screened.
Derek Napier, the chief executive of the Scottish-based Association for International Cancer Research, said: "People in Scotland, as in other parts of the UK, are quite literally dying of embarrassment from a disease which is one of the most treatable, if detected early enough."
But Neil Brookes, the chief executive of Colon Cancer Concern, said that he expected the profile of the campaign to increase awareness of the seriousness of bowel cancer.
"Screening will, at a stroke, help to raise the profile of the disease and encourage people to be much more active in seeking to prevent it," he said.