Colorectal cancer-screening tests and associated health behaviors

Am J Prev Med. 2001 Aug;21(2):132-7. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(01)00329-4.


Background: Studies have shown that screening reduces colorectal cancer mortality. We analyzed national survey data to determine rates of use of fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and sigmoidoscopy, and to determine if these rates differ by demographic factors and other health behaviors.

Methods: A total of 52,754 respondents aged >or=50 years were questioned in the 1997 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey (a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of the non-institutionalized U.S. population) about their use of FOBT and sigmoidoscopy.

Results: The age-adjusted proportion of respondents who reported having had a colorectal cancer screening test during the recommended time interval (past year for FOBT and past 5 years for sigmoidoscopy) was 19.8% for FOBT, 30.5% for sigmoidoscopy, and 41.1% for either FOBT or sigmoidoscopy. Rates of use of colorectal cancer screening tests were higher for those who had other screening tests (mammography, Papanicolaou smear, and cholesterol check). There were also differences in rates of use of colorectal cancer screening tests according to other health behaviors (smoking, seat belt use, fruit and vegetable intake, and physical activity) and several demographic factors. However, none of the subgroups that we examined reported a rate of FOBT use above 29% within the past year or a rate of sigmoidoscopy use above 41% within the past 5 years.

Conclusions: While rates of use of FOBT and sigmoidoscopy were higher among people who practiced other healthy behaviors, rates of use were still quite low in all subgroups. There is a need for increased awareness of the importance of colorectal cancer screening.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Sigmoidoscopy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Statistics as Topic