Coverage and performance of colorectal cancer screening with the faecal occult blood test in Finland

J Med Screen. 2011;18(1):18-23. doi: 10.1258/jms.2010.010036.


Introduction: Mortality from colorectal cancer has been shown to decrease by repeated screening using faecal occult blood (FOB) testing in randomized screening trials. This report presents coverage and performance of organized screening among the general population in Finland.

Methods: In 2004-2007, people aged 60-69 years were randomized into biennial screening and control arms. The screening test was a guaiac-based FOB test (Hemoccult) with dietary restriction and three test cards for six consecutive samples. Test positives were referred for full colonoscopy. The programme was launched in 2004 and subsequently it expanded over regions and age-cohorts.

Results: In 2007, the programme covered one-third of the target population and 74,592 people had been invited for screening, of them 26,866 for the second round. Uptakes for the first and second rounds, respectively, were 62% and 68% in men and 77% and 80% in women. The proportion of test positives increased from 2.4% to 2.9% from the first to the second round and the positive predictive value for cancers decreased from 7.5% to 4.3%.

Conclusions: By 2007, organized colorectal cancer screening covered one-third of the target population in Finland. Implementation of screening measured with response rate was successful and met the criteria for a public health programme, but performance in terms of positive predictive value needs monitoring.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Feces*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*