Fecal Immunochemical Test Program Performance Over 4 Rounds of Annual Screening: A Retrospective Cohort Study

Ann Intern Med. 2016 Apr 5;164(7):456-63. doi: 10.7326/M15-0983. Epub 2016 Jan 26.


Background: The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a common method for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening, yet its acceptability and performance over several rounds of annual testing are largely unknown.

Objective: To assess FIT performance characteristics over 4 rounds of annual screening.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Kaiser Permanente Northern and Southern California.

Patients: 323 349 health plan members aged 50 to 70 years on their FIT mailing date in 2007 or 2008 who completed the first round of FIT and were followed for up to 4 screening rounds.

Measurements: Screening participation, FIT positivity (≥20 µg of hemoglobin/g), positive predictive values for adenoma and CRC, and FIT sensitivity for detecting CRC obtained from Kaiser Permanente electronic databases and cancer registries.

Results: Of the patients invited for screening, 48.2% participated in round 1. Of those who remained eligible, 75.3% to 86.1% participated in subsequent rounds. Median follow-up was 4.0 years, and 32% of round 1 participants crossed over to endoscopy over 4 screening rounds-7.0% due to a positive FIT result. The FIT positivity rate (5.0%) and positive predictive values (adenoma, 51.5%; CRC, 3.4%) were highest in round 1. Overall, programmatic FIT screening detected 80.4% of patients with CRC diagnosed within 1 year of testing, including 84.5% in round 1 and 73.4% to 78.0% in subsequent rounds.

Limitation: Screening detection, rather than long-term cancer prevention, was evaluated.

Conclusion: Annual FIT screening was associated with high sensitivity for CRC, with high adherence to annual follow-up screening among initial participants. The findings indicate that annual programmatic FIT screening is feasible and effective for population-level CRC screening.

Primary funding source: National Institutes of Health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / diagnosis
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity