The Health Information and Quality Authority has said that a new screening programme to detect colorectal cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by up to 36%.
View the NCSS report
View the HIQA report
The National Cancer Screening Service has recommended that a national colorectal cancer screening programme should be introduced for all men and women aged between 55 and 74.
Minister for Health Mary Harney has asked HIQA to report by September on how the screening programme could be delivered within existing health resources.
NCSS says that a blood test should be offered every two years for what is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Ireland among men and women.
It estimates that around 700,000 people would be eligible for the test and around 60% of people would come forward for screening.
The report recommends that four screening centres be set up around the country, to deal with around 12,000 colonoscopies that would be required each year following the blood test.
The expert group report was sought from by the Minister for Health in 2007.
Around 2,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year and around 930 people die from this cancer.
The NCSS says that extra consultants, specialist nurses and other staff will be required for the screening service and that screening could start around two years after policy approval and funding for the programme.
The report predicts that by 2020, the number of new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year will increase by 79% in men and 56% in women, due mainly to an increasing and ageing population.