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Ann Intern Med. 2011 Jan 4;154(1):22-30. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-154-1-201101040-00004.

Protection from colorectal cancer after colonoscopy: a population-based, case-control study.

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  • 1German Cancer Research Center, University Clinic Heidelberg, University of Heidelberg, Germany.



Colonoscopy with detection and removal of adenomas is considered a powerful tool to reduce colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence. However, the degree of protection achievable in a population setting with high-quality colonoscopy resources remains to be quantified.


To assess the association between previous colonoscopy and risk for CRC.


Population-based case-control study.


Rhine-Neckar region of Germany.


A total of 1688 case patients with colorectal cancer and 1932 control participants aged 50 years or older.


A detailed lifetime history of CRC risk factors and preventive factors, including history and results of previous colonoscopies, and of medical data obtained by self-reports and medical records. Odds ratios of CRC associated with colonoscopy in the preceding 10 years were estimated, after adjustment for sex, age, education level, participation in a general health screening examination, family history of CRC, smoking status, body mass index, and use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or hormone replacement therapy.


Overall, colonoscopy in the preceding 10 years was associated with 77% lower risk for CRC. Adjusted odds ratios for any CRC, right-sided CRC, and left-sided CRC were 0.23 (95% CI, 0.19 to 0.27), 0.44 (CI, 0.35 to 0.55), and 0.16 (CI, 0.12 to 0.20), respectively. Strong risk reduction was observed for all cancer stages and all ages, except for right-sided cancer in persons aged 50 to 59 years. Risk reduction increased over the years in both the right and the left colon.


The study was observational, with potential for residual confounding and selection bias.


Colonoscopy with polypectomy can be associated with strongly reduced risk for CRC in the population setting. Aside from strong risk reduction with respect to left-sided CRC, risk reduction of more than 50% was also seen for right-sided colon cancer.


German Research Council and German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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