Distal colonic neoplasms predict proximal neoplasia in average-risk, asymptomatic subjects

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 1999 Jan;14(1):67-71. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1746.1999.01804.x.


Flexible sigmoidoscopy has been recommended as a screening method to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer in asymptomatic, average-risk subjects through the early detection and removal of polyps. However, the association between distal and proximal colonic neoplasia and, hence, the requirement for colonoscopic follow up of screen-detected distal neoplasms is unclear. Our aims were: (i) to evaluate the risk of having proximal neoplasms in those with distal colonic neoplasms; and (ii) to determine whether the risk was dependent on the number, size, histology or morphology of the distal lesions. We prospectively evaluated asymptomatic subjects in a flexible sigmoidoscopy based screening programme. Those with rectosigmoid neoplasia underwent colonoscopy. The number, size, histology and morphology of the polyps were recorded. Advanced lesions were defined as adenomas > 1 cm or with a villous component or severe dysplasia, carcinoma in situ or cancer. Adenomatous polyps were found in 17% (135) of screening flexible sigmoidoscopies. At colonoscopy, up to 30% of subjects with distal colonic neoplasms had synchronous proximal lesions at colonoscopy and up to 20% had advanced proximal lesions. The risk of proximal colonic neoplasia was increased in those with distal sessile colonic neoplasms but appeared independent of distal lesion size, number or morphology. In conclusion, distal colonic neoplasia predicts proximal neoplasia in up to 30% of subjects and these were advanced lesions in up to 20%. We recommend that all subjects with biopsy proven distal colonic neoplasia undergo colonoscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / epidemiology
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonoscopy
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polyps / diagnosis
  • Polyps / epidemiology
  • Polyps / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sigmoidoscopy