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Colonoscopy: Is It Worth The Risk?

In the early spring of 2008, while researching the iatrogenic (related to medical treatments) causes of colorectal disorders, I wrote an essay entitled “Colonoscopy: Is it worth it?” It was based on the following crystal-clear statement-of-fact by the National Cancer Institute: "...it is not yet known for certain whether colonoscopy can help reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer."

National Cancer Institute

The facts, figures, and conclusions presented in that essay were so appalling that I sent a private letter to Ms. Katie Couric — a principal driving force behind colonoscopy screenings in the United States — who has been claiming a complete opposite: “ In fact, it‘s [colon cancer] more than 90% curable — but only if you get tested in time.” Here is a copy of that letter:

Ms. Katie Couric
Anchor, Managing Editor
CBS Evening News
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

Tel. (212) 975-3247

Dear Ms. Couric,

I am the author of the enclosed book entitled Fiber Menace, and its matching web site FiberMenace.com. Along with other articles related to colorectal health, this site features an essay entitled “Colonoscopy: Is it worth it?” This essay outlines the considerable risks related to colonoscopies, their relative worthlessness, and provides a balanced and weighted approach regarding colon cancer screening and risk avoidance.

Once you have had an opportunity to review my book and site, you‘ll have a much better perspective on why you are receiving this letter, and why I am asking you for help. My request is very simple: please use your considerable influence to become an agent of change. Some very unscrupulous people have been using your grief, prominence, and position to promote colonoscopies and fiber for their own good, not for the good of you, your family, or your audience.

At present, you are the only person in the United States who can facilitate abrupt change and bring to an end this ruthless exploitation of unsuspecting Americans. Just like you, all these millions of people who are submitting themselves to unnecessary colonoscopies are someone else‘s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, or sons and daughters.

Lets work together to stop this disaster. I realize how embarrassing it may be for your to reverse your position and to admit that you have been used, but it would be even more embarrassing if people without your best interest in mind used this information against you, against the NCCRA, and against your current and past employers.

I look forward to meeting you in New York at your earliest convenience. You may contact me at [my cell phone number] to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter further. I have eight years of extensive experience in live radio and some experience in television, and am an effective spokesperson for causes I choose to promote. With your kind help and participation, we can save countless lives, and prevent more cases of colon cancer and more tragedies than any other approach.

Please help me, help yourself, help your fellow Americans, please, please, please!.. Thank you in advance for considering my request.

Sincerely yours,

Konstantin Monastyrsky


To my astonishment, a seemingly sincere and caring Ms. Couric has never replied, so I've kept on digging this topic deeper and deeper. After identifying even more disturbing facts behind the relentless promotion of screening colonoscopies, I've produced an expanded version of the original report on video and released it in January of 2009.

Despite my considerable efforts to inform health reporters at major newspapers, magazines, wire services, and television stations about the dangers of screening colonoscopies outlined in my report, it was also ignored.

After failing to attract the attention of mainstream media, I prepared a video appeal and accompanying cover letter (below) to our newly elected president and submitted both to the WhiteHouse.gov website on March 23, 2009. After all, Mr. Obama at that time had been urging our active participation in the formation of public policy, and I had absolutely no reason to doubt his interest:

The President of The United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

March 23, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on becoming the President of the United States. Your election has become a tremendous source of inspiration to me, and the catalyst to become a public health advocate.

Your intention to transform our healthcare system has motivated me to challenge one of the most deadliest of medical dogmas — the necessity, safety, and alleged efficacy of screening colonoscopies.

This challenge is difficult to accomplish on my own because it adversely affects the reputations, careers, and the immense profits of influential individuals and entities in the mass media, business, and medicine that have been built on promoting colorectal cancer screenings. For this reason I‘ve decided to appeal to you publicly, and ask for your intervention in this matter.

All of the facts presented in my appeal are no more farfetched or improbable than the recently disgraced screening test for prostate cancer, even though the independent experts were warning us about its appalling potential for harm over many years.

You yourself, Mr. President, are just a few years away from your first screening colonoscopy. Your well-meaning doctors may erroneously advise you that your colorectal cancer risk is “higher than average” because of your African heritage.

This erroneous assumption is derived from analyzing the morbidity and mortality of African-Americans, who, on average, have higher rates of obesity and diabetes — major predisposing risk factors for colorectal cancer — than white Americans.

Hopefully, your review of the facts and recommendations presented in my appeal will spare you from taking unnecessary medical risks that may irreversibly compromise your health, future, and longevity.

Your attention to this grievous situation will also help all Americans to learn the true facts about the dangers of screening colonoscopies, reduce related morbidity and mortality, and save or redirect tens of billions of dollars to critical services for children and the uninsured.

Thank you in advance for reviewing and acting upon my appeal.

Respectfully yours,

Konstantin Monastyrsky, medical writer


Submitted on WhiteHouse.gov website
March 23, 2009

Well, as you can surmise by now, my appeal [link] was ignored by Mr. Obama's staff, and no one had bothered to alert their boss or First Lady about this matter. Lo and behold, in March of 2010 President Obama himself underwent a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) test during his first physical exam as commander-in-chief [link]. This dubious procedure exposed him to a dose of ionizing radiation comparable to “some of the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombs”:

US Food and Drug Administration

Considering Mr. Obama's ethnicity (the rates of major cancers among black Americans are higher than among whites), smoking habit, and overexposure to stress, his lifetime risk of a fatal cancer will probably be even greater. Who needs to fear nuclear terrorists when your own doctors are so eager to nuke you?

Well, truth is a stubborn creature. On November 9, 2011, three and a half years after my first contact with Ms. Couric, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published an editorial entitled «Less is More: Not “Going the Distance” and Why» [link]. After enumerating a smaller subset of the problems related to screening colonoscopies, it concluded:

...less colonoscopy can mean
more well-being for us all.

Sure, being righted feels great. On the other hand, a lot of people have been harmed or killed in the past several years; a lot more, including the President of the United States, have been exposed to cancer-causing ionizing radiation from virtual colonoscopies, and I feel terrible about it. Even more dreadful — I don't expect this travesty to end anytime soon because so much windfall profit rides on this deadly racket.

Without further ado, here is the original report from January 2009:

DeathS FROM Colonoscopy? You Bet...

Each year over 14 million healthy Americans are getting screened for colon cancer. Of these, according to the report “Complications of Colonoscopy in an Integrated Health Care Delivery System” by the Annals of Internal Medicine, an estimated 70,000 (0.5%) are killed or injured by colonoscopy-related complications. This figure is higher than the total number of annual deaths from colon cancer itself, 22% higher. 

The number of casualties above doesn't include deferred complications from colon prep and general anesthesia, such as kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, and numerous others. Nor does it include the increased risk of all other cancers from radiation exposure caused by virtual colonoscopies. Thus, if you are close to or past 50, and have been considering screening colonoscopy, the next 9 minutes may save your life and prevent other cancers:

Part I. The Anatomy Of A Deadly Deception

Problems watching? View on YouTube. Read transcript.

Key Highlights From Part I:

dotDramatic increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer. Despite tens of millions of screening colonoscopies performed between the years 2000 and 2007, the annual incidence of colorectal cancer in the United States increased by about 30,000 more cases.

dotMore polyps are missed than found. Up to a third of all colonoscopies routinely miss polyps and cancerous tumors. According to the report I cited at the beginning of this page, practically 100% of all polyps are missed in the right (ascending) colon.

dotIncreased cancer risk from radiation. X-ray exposure from a single virtual colonoscopy increases one‘s lifetime risk of cancer by 20%. Virtual colonoscopies are now recommended every 5 years. By age 70 one‘s risk of developing any other form of cancer grows to 100%. Killing you with another form of cancer before the colon gets affected is one hell of the way to “prevent” colon cancer.

dotPolypectomy doesn't prevent cancers. According to the research published back in 2006, the screened patients in all of the studies developed colorectal cancer “at the same rate as would be expected in the general population without screening” in the next few years, even though they have removed all found polyps.

dotNo clinical research to support the rationale of colonoscopy screening. According to the American Cancer Society, up untill now (that‘s in 2009) “…there are no prospective randomized controlled trials of screening colonoscopy for the reduction in incidence of or mortality from colorectal cancer.” In other words, the recommendation to undergo colonoscopy screening is based entirely on its income potential, not proven health benefits.

dotNo clinical research to support the effectiveness of virtual colonoscopies. The National Cancer Institute is even more explicit: “…it is not yet known [in 2008] for certain whether colonoscopy can help reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer.” and “Whether virtual colonoscopy can reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer is not yet known.”

Part II. Turning A Probable Death Sentence Into A Manageable Risk

View on YouTube. Read transcript.

Key Highlights From Part II:

dotOverblown risk of colorectal cancer death. The risk of colorectal cancer is exaggerated for commercial purposes. Even a person in a high-risk group is 12 times as likely to die from heart disease; 10 times from any other cancer, 6 times from a medical error, 3 times from stroke, and twice as likely to die from an accident.

dotA large-scale investigation of colonoscopy screening demonstrated its complete futility. The eighteen-years-long Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Study included 46,000+ patients between the ages of 50 and 80. It demonstrated only a 0.6% reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer. Statistically speaking, this difference is even less than the chance outcome of one thousand coin flips.

dotColonoscopy screening increases mortality from all other causes, research shows. The Telemark Polyp Study I demonstrated a 157% increase in mortality among screened patients vis-à-vis unscreened controls. The decrease in the incidence of colorectal cancers was only… 2%, which, statistically speaking again, is essentially none at all. In the video I mistakenly indicate 57% increase in mortality instead of 157%.

dotColorectal cancer is a lifestyle disease. The majority of colorectal cancers aren't hereditary, and the majority of people in the high-risk group never develop one either. This means that colorectal cancer is connected to lifestyle factors, just like lung cancer is connected to one's smoking.

Part III. Why Screening Colonoscopy Increases the Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Watch on YouTube. Read transcript.

Key Highlights From Part III:

An estimated 95% of all polyps are benign. They will never become cancers, so removing them makes just as much sense as zapping the moles off your buttocks to prevent melanoma.

Not all colorectal cancers are preceded by detectable polyps. It is believed an even larger share of colon cancers start from flat lesions that no one is suggesting to remove, even though they are considered five times as cancerous as large polyps.

Increased cancer risk. Removing polyps or even doing biopsies releases cancer cells into the bloodstream and the colon's lumen. In turn, these cells may seed all other cancers throughout the body.

Unreliable procedure. Even the most thorough endoscopists may miss up to 30% of detectable polyps. The less rigorous routinely miss up to 60%, including actual cancer tumors. All of them, regardless of skill or attention, miss 100% of polyps in the right colon.

Unnecessary procedure. The average age for colorectal cancer diagnosis is 72. Commencing invasive screening and polypectomies in asymptomatic people at age 50 is just as absurd as taking contraceptives after menopause.

High risk of internal bleeding. Polypectomy profoundly increases patients' risk of death from hard-to-detect internal bleeding, which may lead to ischemic stroke, myocardial ischemia, cardiac arrest, or sudden cardiac death.

No demonstrable benefit. If polypectomies were, indeed, effective, with about half of Americans past age fifty getting screened, we should have enjoyed at least a 50% reduction in the incidence and mortality of colon cancer. Instead, we have a 22% increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer. Most likely, this increase is related to polypectomies.

Part IV. Why Screening Colonoscopy Increases Mortality?

Watch on YouTube. Read transcript.

Key Highlights From Part IV:

Irreversible kidney damage. Over 85,000 people die annually from kidney failure — that is almost 50% more than from colorectal cancer. Many of these deaths have been precipitated by a careless and damaging colon prep.

Severe dehydration. Colonoscopy prep causes severe dehydration. It may result in dizziness, syncope, ischemic stroke, blood clotting, sudden cardiac death, a fall or an accident, medication overdose, and other complications. The death rate related to these side effects is not known.

Chronic bowel disorders. Bowel movement disruption following colonoscopy commonly leads to chronic constipation, severe diarrhea, diverticulitis, and bowel obstruction. All of these conditions constitute a primary cause of inflammatory bowel disease. That factor alone increases the risk of colon cancer by 32 times!

Severe heart disease. The confirmed rate of severe cardiovascular risk from general anesthesia for low-risk surgical procedures, such as colonoscopy, ranges from 0.27% to 1.1% within the first six days after the surgery.

Blood clotting and pulmonary embolism. Deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are a common side effect related to general anesthesia. Pulmonary embolism causes or contributes to up to 200,000 deaths annually in the United States.

Chest infection and pneumonia. An estimated 25% of all people develop chest infections after general anesthesia, and many older people die weeks or months later from acute pneumonia. The mortality rate from pneumonia is 5%, and about 60,000 people die annually — more than from colorectal cancer.

Complications and medical errors related to colonoscopy. At least 70,000 patients get injured by colonoscopy, according to actual reports. The unreported injury rate may be close to 280,000, or 2%.

Increased risk of all other cancers. The potential long-term death toll from all other cancers caused by polypectomy-related contamination, and radiation exposure from virtual colonoscopies, is in the millions.

No measurable impact relative to effort. Even according to Katie Couric, who has a penchant for exaggeration, colorectal cancer mortality is down just 2,500 cases a year, or under 2% of all deaths, a value too small to be considered a definite trendsetter.

Additional Reading:

The following sections expand on above videos with practical advice and additional commentaries:

» Side Effects Of Screening Colonoscopies

» Frequently Asked Questions About Screening Colonoscopies

» Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

» Colorectal Cancer Prevention

You can also access all these sections from selected sidebars.

Author's note

A wealthy acquaintance of mine died at age 56 from brain cancer. His brain tumor was probably contributed to by earlier treatment for colon cancer. In turn, his colon cancer was probably caused by frequent virtual colonoscopies and coronary angiograms — a preventative computer-assisted x-ray (CT scan) of, respectively, the colon and heart.

With a strong conviction that money can buy just about anything, a $1,000 scan to him was less than $1 to most people. So, why not, as he once told me, buy some “peace of mind,” right? Apparently not...

I wrote my books and developed this site for people who still value a buck and wish to prevent common gastrointestinal disorders and escape colorectal cancer without relying on cancer-causing screening colonoscopies, addictive laxatives, harmful fiber supplements, ineffective and deadly drugs, and irreversible, complication-prone surgeries.

The information on this site complements and expands the content of Gut Sense and Fiber Menace. Both books evolved from my extensive research in the field of forensic nutrition. Unlike orthodox nutrition, which studies and promotes health food, forensic nutrition studies why people get sick and die from a presumably healthy diet.

Konstantin Monastyrsky