Aims Guaiac faecal occult blood tests are being replaced by faecal immunochemical tests (FIT). We investigated whether faecal haemoglobin concentration (f-Hb) was related to stage in progression of colorectal neoplasia, studying cancer and adenoma characteristics in an evaluation of quantitative FIT as a first-line screening test.
Methods We invited 66 225 individuals aged 50–74 years to provide one sample of faeces. f-Hb was measured on samples from 38 720 responders. Colonoscopy findings and pathology data were collected on the 943 with f-Hb≥400 ng Hb/ml (80 µg Hb/g faeces).
Results Of the 814 participants with outcome data (median age: 63 years, range 50–75, 56.4% male), 39 had cancer, 190 high-risk adenoma (HRA, defined as ≥3 or any ≥10 mm) and 119 low-risk adenoma (LRA). 74.4% of those with cancer had f-Hb>1000 ng Hb/ml compared with 58.4% with HRA, and 44.1% with no pathology. Median f-Hb concentration was higher in those with cancer than those with no (p<0.002) or non-neoplastic (p<0.002) pathology, and those with LRA (p=0.0001). Polyp cancers had lower concentrations than more advanced stage cancers (p<0.04). Higher f-Hb was also found in those with HRA than with LRA (p<0.006), large (>10 mm) compared with small adenoma (p<0.0001), and also an adenoma displaying high-grade dysplasia compared with low-grade dysplasia (p<0.009).
Conclusions f-Hb is related to severity of colorectal neoplastic disease. This has ramifications for the selection of the appropriate cut-off concentration adopted for bowel screening programmes.
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