A national colon cancer screening programme is to be introduced on a phased basis from 2012, with the aim of saving around 300 lives a year.
Phase one of the programme will involve screening people aged 60-69 years, and over time it will be expanded to the full 55-74 age group as recommended by experts.
The programme will be built up over time to allow the infrastructure, equipment and staff to be put in place.
Rates here are among the highest in Europe.Each year, over 2,000 new cases of colon cancer are diagnosed and on average 925 people die from the disease.
The screening programme will cost around €12m in its first year, according to a revised model recommended in a report from the Health Information and Quality Authority for the Minister of Health.
Colonoscopies will be performed at eight to 12 locations and private health insurance companies will be encouraged to help cover the cost for subscribers.
The Irish Cancer Society has offered €1m over two years towards the cost of the programme.