The Government is to put $24 million into a bowel cancer screening pilot programme over the next four years.
Bowel cancer is the second highest cause of cancer deaths in New Zealand. In 2007, 1252 people died from the disease.
Health Minister Tony Ryall says a national bowel cancer screening programme could ensure earlier treatment and over time could reduce the death rate by 35%, saving up to 270 lives a year.
Mr Ryall says the pilot programme will give the Government a clear idea of the costs and benefits of rolling out a full nationwide programme.
The pilot will target at least 60,000 people aged between 50 and 74.
The spokesperson for the taskforce advising the Government on bowel cancer, Susan Parry, says early detection is best way to reduce deaths from the illness.
Ms Parry says New Zealanders have the largest rate of bowel cancer in the developed world, which could be due to a high consumption of meat and dairy products.