Objectives: To assess the prior exposure to colorectal examinations between colorectal cancer (CRC) patients and matched control participants to estimate the effect of these examinations on the development of CRC and to obtain insight into the background incidence of colorectal examinations.
Methods: A population-based case-control study was conducted within the Dutch Integrated Primary Care Information database over the period 1996-2005. All incident CRC cases were matched with up to 18 controls (n=7,790) for age, sex, index date (date of CRC diagnosis) and follow-up before diagnosis. All colorectal examinations performed in symptomatic participants in the period 0.5-5 years before index date were considered in the analyses.
Results: Within the source population of 457 024 persons, we identified 594 incident cases of CRC. In the period 0.5-5 years before index date 2.9% (17 of 594) of the CRC cases had undergone colorectal examinations, compared with 4.4% (346 of 7790) in the control population [odds ratio (ORadj): 0.56, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.33-0.94]. For left-sided CRC, significantly more controls than cases had undergone a colorectal examination (4.7 vs. 2.0%, respectively, ORadj: 0.36, 95% CI: 0.17-0.76), which was not seen for right-sided CRCs (3.3 vs. 3.9%, respectively, ORadj: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.42-2.25).
Conclusion: Patients diagnosed with CRC were less likely than controls to have had a colorectal examination in previous years, being more pronounced in patients diagnosed with left-sided CRCs. If diagnostic examinations have a similar protective effect as screening examinations, this finding supports the concept that colorectal examination can have a major impact on the reduction of CRC risk.