Background: Colorectal cancer screening by guaiac faecal occult blood test has been shown to reduce the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer in Western populations. The optimal faecal occult blood test, whether guaiac or immunochemical, for colorectal cancer screening in the Chinese population remains to be defined.
Aim: To compare the performance characteristics of a sensitive guaiac-based faecal occult blood test (Hemoccult SENSA) and an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (FlexSure OBT) in a Chinese population referred for colonoscopy.
Methods: One hundred and thirty-five consecutive patients who were referred for colonoscopy and who met the study inclusion criteria took samples for the two faecal occult blood tests simultaneously from three successive stool specimens, with no dietary restrictions. All tests were developed and interpreted by a single experienced technician who was blind to the clinical diagnosis. The sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value for the detection of colorectal adenomas and cancers were estimated for the two tests.
Results: The sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value for the detection of significant colorectal neoplasia (adenomas > or = 1.0 cm and cancers) were 91%, 70% and 18% for Hemoccult SENSA and 82%, 94% and 47% for FlexSure OBT. The specificity and positive predictive value were significantly higher for FlexSure OBT than for Hemoccult SENSA (P < 0.001 and P = 0.016, respectively). Combining the positive results from both faecal occult blood tests did not improve the accuracy.
Conclusion: The positive predictive value of the immunochemical faecal occult blood test for the detection of significant colorectal neoplasia was 29% better than that of the sensitive guaiac-based test. This may relate to the Chinese diet and requires further study. The poor specificity of the sensitive guaiac-based test, without dietary restriction, makes it less useful for colorectal cancer screening in a Chinese population.