Faecal haemoglobin distributions by sex, age, deprivation and geographical region: consequences for colorectal cancer screening strategies

Gavin R. C. Clark, Judith A. Strachan, Alisson McPherson, Jayne Digby, Craig Mowat, Robert J. C. Steele, Callum G. Fraser (Lead / Corresponding author)

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19 Citations (Scopus)
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Faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin (FIT) are becoming widely used in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening and assessment of symptomatic patients. Faecal haemoglobin concentration (f-Hb) thresholds are used to guide subsequent investigation. We established the distributions of f-Hb in a large screening population by sex, age, deprivation and geography. Single estimates of f-Hb were documented for all individuals participating in the first 18 months of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme (SBoSP). The distributions of f-Hb were generated for all participants, all men and women, and men and women by age quintile and deprivation quintile. Distributions were also generated by geographical region for all participants, men and women, and by deprivation. Comparisons of f-Hb distributions with those found in a pilot evaluation of FIT and three other countries were performed. f-Hb was documented for 887,248 screening participants, 422,385 men and 464,863 women. f-Hb varied by sex, age, deprivation quintile and geographical region. The f-Hb distributions by sex and age differed between the SBoSP and the pilot evaluation and the three other countries. f-Hb is higher in men than in women and increases with age and deprivation in both sexes. f-Hb also varies by geographical region, independently of deprivation, and by country. The f-Hb distribution estimated by pilot evaluation may not represent the population distribution. Decision limits have advantages over reference intervals. Use of partitioned f-Hb thresholds for further investigation, based on the data generated, has advantages and disadvantages, as do risk scores based on a spectrum of influencing variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2073-2080
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (CCLM)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


  • colorectal cancer screening
  • decision limits
  • faecal immunochemical test
  • faecal haemoglobin
  • reference values

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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