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J Clin Pathol. 2013 May;66(5):415-9. doi: 10.1136/jclinpath-2013-201445. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Faecal haemoglobin concentration is related to severity of colorectal neoplasia.

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Scottish Bowel Screening Centre, Kings Cross Hospital, Dundee, UK.



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.


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).


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).


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.

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