Molecular tests for colorectal cancer screening

Clin Colorectal Cancer. 2011 Mar 1;10(1):8-23. doi: 10.3816/CCC.2011.n.002.


Detecting and removing high-risk adenomas and early colorectal cancer (CRC) can reduce mortality of this disease. The noninvasive fecal occult blood test (FOBT; guaiac-based or immunochemical) is widely used in screening programs and although effective, it leaves room for improvement in terms of test accuracy. Molecular tests are expected to be more sensitive, specific and informative than current detection tests, and are promising future tools for CRC screening. This review provides an overview of the performances of DNA, RNA, and protein markers for CRC detection in stool and blood. Most emphasis currently is on DNA and protein markers. Among DNA markers there is trend to move away from mutation markers in favor of methylation markers. The recent boost in proteomics research leads to many new candidate protein markers. Usually in small series, some markers show better performance than the present FOBT. Evaluation in large well-controlled randomized trials is the next step needed to take molecular markers for CRC screening to the next level and warrant implementation in a screening setting.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA / analysis
  • DNA Methylation
  • Early Detection of Cancer / instrumentation
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Proteomics
  • RNA / analysis
  • Time Factors


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Genetic Markers
  • RNA
  • DNA