Faecal haemoglobin concentration predicts all-cause mortality

Ulrik Deding (Lead / Corresponding author), Lasse Kaalby, Robert Steele, Issam Al-Najami, Morten Kobaek-Larsen, Eva Plantener, Jeppe B. Madsen, Jonna S. Madsen, Thomas Bjørsum-Meyer, Gunnar Baatrup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Population-based screening for colorectal cancer by a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) is recommended by the European Union. Detectable faecal haemoglobin can indicate colorectal neoplasia as well as other conditions. A positive FIT predicts an increased risk of death from colorectal cancer but might also predict an increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Methods: A cohort of screening participants was followed using the Danish National Register of Causes of Death. Data were retrieved from the Danish Colorectal Cancer Screening Database supplemented with FIT concentrations. Colorectal cancer specific and all-cause mortality were compared between FIT concentration groups using multivariate cox proportional hazards regression models.

Findings: In 444,910 Danes invited for the screening program, 25,234 (5·7%) died during a mean follow-up of 56·5 months. Colorectal cancer caused 1120 deaths. The risk of colorectal cancer death increased with the increasing FIT concentration. The hazard ratios ranged from 2·6 to 25·9 compared to individuals with FIT concentrations <4 μg hb/g faeces. Causes other than colorectal cancer caused 24,114 deaths. The risk of all-cause death increased with the increasing FIT concentration, with the hazard ratios ranging from 1·6 to 5·3 compared to individuals with FIT concentrations <4 μg hb/g faeces.

Interpretation: The risk of colorectal cancer mortality increased with the increasing FIT concentrations even for FIT concentrations considered negative in all European screening programs. The risk of all-cause mortality was also increased for individuals with detectable faecal blood. For colorectal cancer specific mortality and all-cause mortality, the risk was increased at the FIT concentrations as low as 4-9 μg hb/g faeces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-29
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer mortality
  • Faecal immunochemical test
  • Screening
  • All-cause mortality
  • FIT
  • Colonoscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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