Faecal haemoglobin concentrations in women and men diagnosed with colorectal cancer in a national screening programme.

Gavin Clark, Jayne Digby, Callum Fraser, Judith Strachan, Bob Steele (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Objective: There is evidence that colorectal cancer screening using faecal haemoglobin is less effective in women than men. The faecal haemoglobin concentrations were therefore examined in women and men with screen-detected colorectal cancer.

Setting: Scottish Bowel Screening Programme, following the introduction of a faecal immunochemical test from November 2017, to March 2020.

Methods: Data were collated on faecal haemoglobin concentrations, pathological stage and anatomical site of the main lesion in participants who had colorectal cancer detected. The data in women and men were compared.

Results: For the faecal haemoglobin concentrations studied (>80 µg Hb/g faeces), the distributions indicated lower concentrations in women. Marked differences were found between women and men diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The median faecal haemoglobin concentration for women (n = 720) was 408 µg Hb/g faeces compared to 473 µg Hb/g faeces for men (n = 959) (p = 0.004) and 50.6% of the results were >400 µg Hb/g faeces in women; in men, this was 57.8%. The difference in faecal haemoglobin concentrations in women and men became less statistically significant as stage advanced from stages I–IV. For right-sided, left-sided and rectal colorectal cancer, a similar gender difference persisted in all sites. Differences in faecal haemoglobin between the genders were significant for left-sided cancers and stage I and approached significance for rectal cancers and stage II, but all sites and stages showed lower median faecal haemoglobin concentrations for women.

Conclusions: To minimise gender inequalities, faecal immunochemical test-based colorectal cancer screening programmes should evaluate a strategy of using different faecal haemoglobin concentration thresholds in women and men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Screening
Issue number1
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • colorectal cancer screening
  • colorectal cancer site
  • colorectal cancer stage
  • faecal immunochemical test
  • faecal haemoglobin
  • gender differences


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