Feasibility study of colorectal cancer screening by immunochemical faecal occult blood testing: results in a northern Italian community

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Jan;16(1):33-7. doi: 10.1097/00042737-200401000-00006.


Aim: Screening by means of faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) has proved to be effective in reducing colorectal cancer incidence and mortality. We performed a pilot screening for colorectal cancer by latex immunological FOBT in two municipalities of the region Valle d'Aosta, Italy, focusing on problems and obtaining indications for the feasibility and extension of the screening programme on a regional basis.

Methods: A total of 2961 subjects aged 50-74 years were invited by mail to perform a one-day immunochemical FOBT without any dietary restrictions and with a positive threshold put at 100 ng/ml. Patients with positive tests were then invited to undergo colonoscopy and double-contrast barium enema if colonoscopy was incomplete.

Results: A total of 1631 subjects performed the screening test with an overall compliance of 55.1%. Seventy-two subjects had a positive FOBT. Detection rates for cancer and adenomas were 1.8 per thousand and 16.6 per thousand, respectively. Positive predictive values (PPVs) for cancer and adenomas were 4.5% and 40.3%, respectively.

Conclusions: Screening had an adequate attendance rate and the majority of the indicators were satisfactory. The use of a one-day quantitative latex FOBT with no dietary restrictions, automation of the analytical procedure, and a positive threshold of 100 ng/ml has shown that a programme based on this test is feasible in both organizational and attendance terms. On the basis of this experience, the extension of the screening on a regional basis is suggested.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Adenoma / epidemiology
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pilot Projects