Effect of a FIT-Based Colorectal Cancer Screening Program on Mortality Estimated by the Regression Discontinuity Design

Am J Epidemiol. 2023 Sep 1;192(9):1475-1484. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwad096.


The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) has been implemented in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening programs, but effect evaluations are lacking. We evaluated the effect of a positive FIT on all-cause and CRC mortality using the regression discontinuity design. The Danish CRC screening program invites all residents 50-74 years old, using a 20-μg hemoglobin/g feces cutoff for colonoscopy referral. In this cohort study, we followed all first-time screening participants from 2014-2019 until 2020. We estimated the local effect of screening results, of just above the cutoff vs. just below, as hazard ratios (HRs) between models fitted at each side of the cutoff. We conducted the analysis within a narrow hemoglobin range (≥17 and <23, n = 16,428) and a wider range (≥14 and <26, n = 35,353). Those screened just above the cutoff had lower all-cause mortality compared with below (HR = 0.87, 95% confidence interval: 0.69; 1.10), estimated from the narrow range. The CRC mortality analysis had few outcomes. In the wider range, those with a FIT just above the cutoff had a lower hazard of CRC mortality compared with just below the cutoff (HR = 0.49, 95% confidence interval: 0.17; 1.41). A FIT result just above the cutoff, leading to referral to colonoscopy, pointed towards reduced all-cause and CRC mortality compared with just below the cutoff.

Keywords: cohort; colorectal cancer; mortality; quasi-experimental design; regression discontinuity design; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / methods
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood


  • Hemoglobins