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J Clin Pathol 66:415-419 doi:10.1136/jclinpath-2013-201445
  • Original article

Faecal haemoglobin concentration is related to severity of colorectal neoplasia

  1. Robert J C Steele6
  1. 1Scottish Bowel Screening Centre, Kings Cross Hospital, Dundee, UK
  2. 2Centre for Research into Cancer Prevention and Screening, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK
  4. 4Department of Surgery, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, UK
  5. 5Department of Pathology, Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, UK
  6. 6University Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK
  1. Correspondence to Jayne Digby, Scottish Bowel Screening Research Unit, Kings Cross Hospital, Clepington Road, Dundee DD3 8EA, UK; jaynedigby{at}nhs.net
  • Received 7 January 2013
  • Revised 17 January 2013
  • Accepted 23 January 2013
  • Published Online First 15 February 2013

Abstract

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.