Recent Developments in Colorectal Cancer Screening and Prevention

Am Fam Physician. 2002 Jul 15;66(2):297-302.

Abstract

Colorectal cancer is a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality in the United States. Studies published in the early 1990s, showing that screening for colorectal cancer can reduce colorectal cancer-related mortality, led many organizations to recommend screening in asymptomatic, average-risk adults older than 50 years. Since then, however, national screening rates remain low. Several important studies published over the past four years have refined our understanding of existing screening tools and explored novel means of screening and prevention. The most important new developments, which are reviewed in this article, include the following: Additional trial results support the effectiveness of fecal occult blood testing in reducing the incidence of, and mortality from, colorectal cancer. New studies document the sensitivity of fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, and double-contrast barium enema compared with colonoscopy. Cost-effectiveness models show that screening by any of several methods is cost-effective compared to no screening. Randomized trials show that calcium is effective but fiber is not effective in preventing reoccurrence of adenomatous polyps. Preliminary data suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may prevent adenomatous polyps and that DNA stool tests and virtual colonoscopy may show promise as screening tools. This new information provides further support for efforts to increase the use of colorectal cancer screening and prevention services in adults older than 50 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / prevention & control
  • Barium Sulfate
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Colonic Polyps / prevention & control
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Occult Blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sigmoidoscopy

Substances

  • Barium Sulfate
  • Calcium