Are people being screened for colorectal cancer as recommended? Results from the National Health Interview Survey

Prev Med. 2002 Sep;35(3):199-206. doi: 10.1006/pmed.2002.1070.


Background: The evidence is now compelling that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality can be reduced by screening, and medical organizations recommend regular screening among persons of average risk aged 50 years or older. We sought to determine whether appropriate screening has become more widespread now that consensus over its value has been achieved.

Methods: We analyzed data from the 1992 and 1998 National Health Interview Survey, an in-person survey of a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. Persons aged > or =50 years (4428 in 1992, 12,629 in 1998) were questioned about their use of colorectal cancer screening.

Results: Self-reported use of fecal occult blood testing and proctoscopy increased slightly from 1992 to 1998. In 1998, however, only an estimated 22.9% of Americans aged > or =50 years had been screened with either the home-administered fecal occult blood testing in the past year or proctoscopy within 5 years. Nearly half of fecal occult blood testings were performed with a sample taken during an in-office physical examination rather than with the recommended home kit.

Conclusion: Most eligible persons are still not meeting the screening recommendations for colorectal cancer. Education is needed for both the public and health care providers to increase their compliance with current guidelines.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Data Collection
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Proctoscopy
  • United States / epidemiology