Cutoff value determines the performance of a semi-quantitative immunochemical faecal occult blood test in a colorectal cancer screening programme

Br J Cancer. 2009 Oct 20;101(8):1274-81. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605326. Epub 2009 Sep 15.


Background: The cutoff of semi-quantitative immunochemical faecal occult blood tests (iFOBTs) influences colonoscopy referrals and detection rates. We studied the performance of an iFOBT (OC-Sensor) in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening at different cutoffs.

Methods: Dutch screening participants, 50-75 years of age, with average CRC risk and an iFOBT value >or=50 ng ml(-1) were offered colonoscopy. The detection rate was the percentage of participants with CRC or advanced adenomas (>or=10 mm, >or=20% villous, high-grade dysplasia). The number needed to scope (NNTScope) was the number of colonoscopies to be carried out to find one person with CRC or advanced adenomas.

Results: iFOBT values >or=50 ng ml(-1) were detected in 526 of 6157 participants (8.5%) and 428 (81%) underwent colonoscopy. The detection rate for advanced lesions (28 CRC and 161 with advanced adenomas) was 3.1% (95% confidence interval: 2.6-3.5%) and the NNTScope was 2.3. At 75 ng ml(-1), the detection rate was 2.7%, the NNTScope was 2.0 and the CRC miss rate compared with 50 ng ml(-1) was <5% (N=1). At 100 ng ml(-1), the detection rate was 2.4% and the NNTScope was <2. Compared with 50 ng ml(-1), up to 200 ng ml(-1) CRC miss rates remained at 16% (N=4).

Conclusions: Cutoffs below the standard 100 ng ml(-1) resulted in not only higher detection rates of advanced lesions but also more colonoscopies. With sufficient capacity, 75 ng ml(-1) might be advised; if not, up to 200 ng ml(-1) CRC miss rates are acceptable compared with the decrease in performed colonoscopies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunochemistry
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*