NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Colorectal cancer screening by testing stool for tiny amounts of blood, known as "fecal occult blood testing" (FOBT), can reduce deaths from colorectal cancer in the general population, French researchers report in the current issue of Gastroenterology. Studies with volunteers have shown that FOBT, followed by more intensive testing, in patients with positive test results can reduce colorectal cancer death rates, the authors point out. However, these results may not be directly applicable to the general population whose compliance with FOBT may be significantly lower. To investigate, Dr. Jean Faivre and colleagues from Burgundy Cancer Registry, Dijon undertook a study to assess the effectiveness of biennial FOBT screening in reducing of colorectal cancer death rates. This involved almost 92,000 residents from 12 administrative districts in Burgundy. Overall, 69.5 percent of the invited population completed at least one screening and 38.1 percent completing five or six screenings. Having FOBT screening at least once reduced the risk of colorectal death by one third, the investigators found. Also, the 11-year survival rates of patients with cancers identified with FOBT were significantly higher in the screening group (50.5 percent) compared with individuals who were not screened (40.4 percent). "Biennial FOBT significantly reduces colorectal cancer mortality," Faivre told Reuters Health. In fact, he added that a nationwide study of FOBT screening, involving a quarter of the French population, has already begun. Gastroenterology, June 2004.
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