False-positive results from colorectal cancer screening in Catalonia (Spain), 2000-2010

J Med Screen. 2012 Jun;19(2):77-82. doi: 10.1258/jms.2012.012013. Epub 2012 May 31.


Objective: To identify factors associated with a false-positive result in a population-based colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programme with the faecal occult blood test (FOBT) in Catalonia between 2000 and 2010.

Methods: The study population consisted of participants of the Catalan CRC screening programme with a positive FOBT who underwent a colonoscopy for diagnostic confirmation from 2000 to 2010. A false-positive result was defined as having a positive test but detecting no high-risk adenoma or cancer in the follow-up colonoscopy. Multivariate logistic regression models were performed to identify sociodemographic and screening variables related to false-positive results. Adjusted odds ratios (OR) and their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated.

Results: Over the screening period, 1074 (1.7%) of the 63,332 screening tests had a positive result in the Catalan CRC screening programme. The false-positive proportion was 55.2% (n = 546). Women were more likely to have a positive FOBT in the absence of CRC neoplasia than men (adjusted OR = 2.91; 95% CI: 2.22-3.28). During the first prevalence round, the proportion of false-positive results was higher than in subsequent rounds (69.5% vs. 48.9%; P < 0.05). Re-screening and having a bleeding pathology such as haemorrhoids or anal fissures were also associated with a false-positive result.

Conclusion: The proportion of false-positive results and the associated risks should be estimated to provide an eligible population with more reliable information on the adverse effects of screening.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Spain