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Bull World Health Organ. 1990; 68(4): 505–513.
PMCID: PMC2393154

Screening of average-risk individuals for colorectal cancer. WHO Collaborating Centre for the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer.


Recent developments in screening, diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer could lead to a reduction in mortality from this disease. Removal of adenomas, identification of risk factors, appropriate application of accurate diagnostic tests, and aggressive anatomic-surgical resection of colon cancers may already be having a favourable impact. Screening of average-risk populations over the age of 50 also offers promise in the control of this important cancer. The disease is of sufficient magnitude to deserve detection at an early stage with better prospects of patient survival, since screening tests with moderate sensitivity and high specificity are available. Flexible sigmoidoscopy and faecal occult blood tests are sufficiently acceptable to be included in case-finding among patients who are in the health care system. The results of current controlled trials involving more than 300,000 individuals for evaluating the impact of screening on mortality from colon cancer are needed before this approach can be recommended for general public health screening of the population. Further research is required to develop better screening tests, improve patient and physician compliance, and answer more definitively critical questions on cost-effectiveness. Mathematical modelling using current and new data can be used to determine the effectiveness of screening in conjunction with recommendations for primary prevention.

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Selected References

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