LESS than half of the Tasmanians eligible for free bowel cancer screening have taken up the opportunity, according to the state Health Department's Cancer Screening and Control Services.
State manager Gail Ward said those most at risk of contracting cancer, such as the socioeconomically disadvantaged, were the least likely to seek screening.
The test has been available to Tasmanians over 50 years old since 2007.
Ms Ward said breast cancer screening participation in Tasmania was the nation's highest with 58.5 per cent of women in 2009-10 having the test to be taken every two years.
About 55 per cent of women nationally were screened for breast cancer over the same period.
Ms Ward said cervical cancer screening reached 57 per cent in Tasmania in 2009-10, equal to the national rate.
She attributed bowel cancer's low screening rates to the lack of awareness compared with that of breast and cervical cancers.
Bowel cancer was the second-biggest cause of cancer deaths in 2005 after lung cancer, claiming 142 lives in Tasmania.
Bowel cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths in Tasmania over 20 years from 1980.
Cancer Council Tasmania chief executive Simon Barnsley urged all Tasmanians to ask their doctor about the best cancer screening plan at their next visit.
``Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers such as cancer of the skin, bowel, prostate, cervix and breast can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, where treatment has more chances to be successful,'' Mr Barnsley said.
Breast screening is provided free to women aged 50 to 69.
Cervical cancer screening is recommended for women aged between 18 and 69 every two years.
Free bowel cancer screening tests will be sent by mail to those aged 50, 55, 60, and 65 this year.