Changes in prevalence of faecal occult blood positivity over time

Anna Goulding, Gavin R. C. Clark, Annie S. Anderson, Judith A. Strachan, Callum G. Fraser, Robert J. C. Steele (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Objectives: Changes in the prevalence of faecal occult blood test positivity over time have not been previously reported, but could have important implications. This study examined the positivity of the initial guaiac faecal occult blood test, a surrogate marker for colorectal bleeding, in participants aged 50 in a national bowel screening programme.

Methods: Data from the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme were used to study the initial positivity of the guaiac faecal occult blood test between 2007 and 2017. Positive predictive values of the testing process for colorectal cancer and adenoma were assessed over the same time period.

Results: Across Scotland, the initial guaiac faecal occult blood test positivity increased from 4.1 to 10.8%. In NHS Grampian and NHS Fife, two of the three NHS Boards which began roll-out of screening in 2007, it increased from 4.0 to 10.9%. In the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme, the positive predictive value declined from 11.0 to 6.6% for colorectal cancer and increased from 31.6 to 39.8% for adenoma.

Conclusions: In the Scottish programme over a decade, initial guaiac faecal occult blood test positivity increased in participants aged 50. This may be associated with changes in lifestyle and might have implications for screening clinical outcomes, including positive predictive value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Screening
Issue number4
Early online date31 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019



  • Adenoma
  • colorectal cancer
  • faecal immunochemical test
  • faecal occult blood test
  • screening

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