People have been urged to attend bowel cancer screenings after scientists found that those who attend appointments have a better chance of survival.
Experts say that those who go to screenings are more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage than those who wait until they have symptoms of the disease.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, with around 40,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year.
Researchers looked at people aged 60 to 69 who were diagnosed with the disease in the West Midlands between January 2006 and September 2011.
They compared the stage at diagnosis in patients picked up at screening compared to those diagnosed from symptoms.
They found that 18.5% of bowel cancers detected through screening were at the earliest stages compared with 9.4% of cancers diagnosed through symptomatic routes.
Sam Johnson, lead researcher based at the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit, said: "When bowel cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage, it's easier to treat, has a lower chance of coming back and better survival rates.
"Our research shows that screening can play an important role in improving bowel cancer survival by picking up cancers at an earlier stage."
The findings were presented at the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) conference in Birmingham.
NCIN head Chris Carrigan said: "When bowel cancer is found at the earliest stage, there is an excellent chance of survival, with more than 90% of people surviving the disease at least five years.
"This study highlights the potential improvements we can make through encouraging more people to take up their screening invitation so the disease is diagnosed earlier."
Cancer Research UK head of health information and evidence Hazel Nunn added: "Bowel screening uptake is worryingly low, particularly amongst men.
"And this is a useful reminder for older people to complete their bowel screening kit when it arrives in the post."
Bowel Cancer UK chief executive officer Deborah Alsina added: "This report shows the devastating impact of leaving things far too late.
"It is vital that people realise just how important it is to recognise the symptoms of bowel cancer and what to do next. If people are concerned then they should go to their doctor immediately.
"The best things to stack the odds against bowel cancer are to take regular exercise and eat the right sorts of food as this could lower the risk. Reaching into the more deprived areas in this country to inform people of how crucial early diagnosis is, is now even more important as this really can save lives."Suggest a correction