A bowel cancer screening programme at Tallaght Hospital has highlighted the potential benefits of national screening.

The programme at Dublin's Tallaght Hospital has resulted in 50 colon cancers or pre-cancerous polyps being detected, according to the results, published today by the hospital.

In the first year of the programme, 6,000 home test kits were issued to people aged 50 to 74 in the Tallaght area.

Over 2,500 people participated and returned the kits for checking at the hospital.

The results enabled 50 colon cancers or pre-cancerous polyps, rated at high risk of becoming cancerous, being diagnosed.

Professor Colm O'Morain, consultant gastroenterologist at Tallaght Hospital, said it was the first comprehensive bowel screening programme in the country and showed the potential benefits of screening.

Funding is available to continue the programme for another year with the aim of screening 10,000 people in total.

Following a recent recommendation from the Health Information and Quality Authority that a national screening programme would be cost-effective and save lives, Health Minister Mary Harney has asked the authority to advise on how it could be introduced within existing resources.