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Epidemiol Prev. 2010 Sep-Dec;34(5-6 Suppl 4):53-72.

Screening for colorectal cancer in Italy: 2008 survey.

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Registro Tumori del Veneto, Istituto Oncologico Veneto IRCCS, Padua.


We present the main results from the fifth survey of the Italian screening programmes for colorectal cancer carried out by the National Centre for Screening Monitoring (Osservatorio Nazionale Screening, ONS) on behalf of the Ministry of Health. By the end of 2008, 87 programmes were active (14 had been activated during the year), and 52,9%of Italians aged 50- 69 years were residing in areas covered by organised screening programmes (theoretical extension). Ten Regions had their whole population covered. In the South of Italy and Islands, 12 new programmes were activated in 2008, including those of Abruzzo and Molise Regions, with an increase of theoretical extension from 7% to 21%. The majority of programmes employ the faecal occult blood test (FOBT), while some have adopted flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) once in a lifetime, or a combination of both. Overall, about 2,593,000 subjects were invited to undergo FOBT, 71%of those to be invited within the year. The adjusted attendance rate was 47.5% and approximately 1,171,000 subjects were screened. Large differences in the attendance rate were observed among Regions, with 10% of programmes reporting values lower than 30%. Positivity rate of FOBT programmes was 5.9% at first screening (range 2.0-11%) and 4% at repeat screening (range 2.9-6.5%). The average attendance rate for total colonoscopy (TC) was 81.3% and in three Regions it was lower than 70%. Completion rate of TC was 92.2%. Among the 665,264 subjects attending screening for the first time, the detection rate (DR) per 1,000 screened subjects was 2.7 for invasive cancer and 13.1 for advanced adenomas (AA, adenomas with a diameter ≥1 cm, with villous/ tubulo-villous type or with high-grade dysplasia). As expected, the corresponding figures in the 552,391 subjects at repeat screening were lower (1.3‰ and 8.3‰ for invasive cancer and AA, respectively). The DR of cancer and adenomas increased with age and was higher among males. Many programmes reported some difficulties in guaranteeing TC in the appropriate time frame to FOBT+ subjects: in 16.0% of cases the waiting time was longer than two months. Seven programmes employed FS as the screening test: 58.8% of the target population (about 50,000 subjects) were invited and 8,135 subjects were screened, with an attendance rate of 27.2%. Overall, 83% of FS were classified as complete. Overall TC referral rate was 13.5% and the DR per 1,000 screened subjects was 4.7 and 47.5 for invasive cancer and AA, respectively.

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