Interval cancers in a national colorectal cancer screening programme

Robert J. C. Steele (Lead / Corresponding author), Greig Stanners, Jaroslaw Lang, David H. Brewster, Francis A. Carey, Callum G. Fraser

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    Background: Little is known about interval cancers (ICs) in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening.
    Objective: The purpose of this study was to identify IC characteristics and compare these with screen-detected cancers (SCs) and cancers in non-participants (NPCs) over the same time period.
    Design: This was an observational study done in the first round of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme. All individuals (772,790), aged 50–74 years, invited to participate between 1 January 2007 and 31 May 2009 were studied by linking their screening records with confirmed CRC records in the Scottish Cancer Registry (SCR). Characteristics of SC, IC and NPC were determined.
    Results: There were 555 SCs, 502 ICs and 922 NPCs. SCs were at an earlier stage than ICs and NPCs (33.9% Dukes’ A as against 18.7% in IC and 11.3% in NPC), screening preferentially detected cancers in males (64.7% as against 52.8% in IC and 59.7% in NPC): this was independent of a different cancer site distribution in males and females. SC in the colon were less advanced than IC, but not in the rectum.
    Conclusion: ICs account for 47.5% of the CRCs in the screened population, indicating approximately 50% screening test sensitivity: guaiac faecal occult blood testing (gFOBT) sensitivity is less for women than for men and gFOBT screening may not be effective for rectal cancer.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)587-594
    Number of pages8
    JournalUnited European Gastroenterology Journal
    Issue number4
    Early online date6 Jan 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


    • Colorectal cancer screening
    • faecal occult blood test
    • interval cancer
    • non-participant cancer
    • screen-detected cancer


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