Background: The Swedish Polyposis Registry was set up in Sweden in the late 1950s to promote screening of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). The aim of this study was to examine the epidemiology of FAP in Sweden, including the influence of screening on morbidity and mortality in colorectal cancer (CRC).
Methods: Four hundred and thirty-one patients (213 males and 218 females) with FAP from 145 families recorded by the Swedish Polyposis Registry were investigated. The effect of screening on morbidity and mortality in CRC was evaluated by comparing the 216 probands with the 215 call-up patients. Three different periods were studied: the pre-screening period (1912-1956), the first screening period (1957-1976), and the second screening period (1977-1996).
Results: The mean annual incidence rates during the three periods were 0.2, 1.38, and 0.86 per million, respectively. The birth frequency was calculated to be 1 in 18,000 between 1947 and 1966, and the prevalence was 32 per million at the end of 1996. The proportion of new mutants among the FAP patients born between 1927 and 1966 was estimated to be 11%. The median age at diagnosis of probands was 39 (range, 11-71) years and did not change over time, although an increase was seen in the subgroup with CRC at diagnosis (P = 0.02). In the call-up group the median age at diagnosis was 22 (range, 3-65) years. Sixty-seven per cent of the probands and 3.3% of the call-up patients had CRC at diagnosis, and the corresponding mortality figures were 44% and 1.9%. The risk among probands of having CRC at diagnosis decreased from 81% to 49% (P = 0.0006). Female probands were diagnosed with symptoms (P = 0.03) and CRC (P = 0.04) earlier than male probands.
Conclusions: A nationwide screening program facilitates detection and early diagnosis of FAP. A decrease in CRC morbidity among probands contributed to the improved prognosis. An earlier onset of symptoms and CRC in females indicate that the course of FAP is influenced by sex.