Improved use of faecal immunochemical tests for haemoglobin in the Scottish bowel screening programme

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This study aimed to develop a risk-scoring model in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme incorporating faecal haemoglobin concentration with other risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Methods: Data were collected for all individuals invited to participate in the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme between November 2017 and March 2018 including faecal haemoglobin concentration, age, sex, National Health Service Board, socioeconomic status, and screening history. Linkage with The Scottish Cancer Registry identified all screening participants diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Logistic regression was performed to identify which factors demonstrated significant association with colorectal cancer and could be used in the development of a risk-scoring model.

Results: Of 232,076 screening participants, 427 had colorectal cancer: 286 diagnosed following a screening colonoscopy and 141 arising after a negative screening test result giving an interval cancer proportion of 33.0%. Only faecal haemoglobin concentration and age showed a statistically significant association with colorectal cancer. Interval cancer proportion increased with age and was higher in women (38.1%) than men (27.5%). If positivity in women were mirrored in men at each age quintile interval cancer proportion would still have remained higher in women (33.2%). Moreover, an additional 1201 colonoscopies would be required to detect 11 colorectal cancers.

Conclusions: Development of a risk scoring model using early data from the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme was not feasible due to most variables showing insignificant association with colorectal cancer. Tailoring the faecal haemoglobin concentration threshold according to age could help to diminish some of the disparity in interval cancer proportion between women and men. Strategies to achieve sex equality using faecal haemoglobin concentration thresholds depend considerably on which variable is selected for equivalency and this requires further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Medical Screening
Early online date25 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2023


  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • faecal immunochemical test
  • faecal haemoglobin
  • sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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