The first-ever set of EU guidelines for bowel cancer screening and diagnosis has been published.
Coordinated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) - the World Health Organisation's cancer research agency - the guidelines were drawn up by more than 90 experts from 32 countries.
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in Europe and the fourth worldwide, but screening can help to detect the disease at an early stage when it is easier to treat.
The new guidelines aim to improve the quality of screening across EU member states by providing benchmarks for all stages of the screening process, from the initial invitation and organisation through to diagnosis and the management of bowel abnormalities.
IARC director Dr Christopher Wild, said: "These guidelines are the result of a major international cooperation and the authors, editors and other contributors are to be congratulated.
"We must now turn to their widespread application to promote the vital international exchange of information and experience between programmes that is essential for continuous quality improvement across national borders."
Dr Wild also underlined the importance of primary prevention of bowel cancer alongside national screening programmes.
He revealed: "Reducing exposure to modifiable risk factors for colorectal cancer, such as physical inactivity, obesity, consumption of alcoholic beverages, red or processed meats and tobacco smoking, combined with screening will translate to a significantly reduced burden of this cancer."
Dr Jodie Moffat, Cancer Research UK's health information manager, said: "We welcome these new bowel cancer guidelines. The cancer screening programmes that we have in this country together save several thousand lives every year, but making sure that every step in a programme works as it should is crucial to its effectiveness. It's important that the right balance between risk and benefit is kept."