Colorectal cancer mortality: Effectiveness of biennial screening for fecal occult blood

Jack S. Mandel, Timothy R. Church, Fred Ederer, John H. Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

669 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: In 1993, a randomized controlled trial in Minnesota showed, after 13 years of follow-up, that annual fecal occult blood testing was effective in reducing colorectal cancer mortality by at least 33%. Biennial screening (i.e., every 2 years) resulted in only a 6% mortality reduction. Two European trials (in England and in Denmark) subsequently showed statistically significant 15% and 18% mortality reductions with biennial screening. Herein, we provide updated results - through 18 years of follow- up - from the Minnesota trial that address the apparent inconsistent findings among the trials regarding biennial screening. Methods: From 1976 through 1977, a total of 46 551 study subjects, aged 50-80 years, were recruited and randomly assigned to an annual screen, a biennial screen, or a control group. A screen consisted of six guaiac-impregnated fecal occult blood tests (Hemoccult®) prepared in pairs from each of three consecutive fecal samples. Participants with at least one of the six tests that were positive were invited for a diagnostic examination that included colonoscopy. All participants were followed annually to ascertain incident colorectal cancers and deaths. Results: The numbers of deaths from all causes were similar among the three study groups. Cumulative 18-year colorectal cancer mortality was 33% lower in the annual group than in the control group (rate ratio, 0.67; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.51-0.83). The biennial group had a 21% lower colorectal cancer mortality rate than the control group (rate ratio, 0.79; 95% CI = 0.62-0.97). A marked reduction was also noted in the incidence of Dukes' stage D cancers in both screened groups in comparison with the control group. Conclusion: The results from this study, together with the other two published randomized trials of fecal occult blood screening, are consistent in demonstrating a substantial, statistically significant reduction in colorectal cancer mortality from biennial screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-437
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the National Cancer Institute
Volume91
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 3 1999

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