Faecal immunochemical tests (FITs) are replacing guaiac faecal occult blood tests (gFOBTs) for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. Incidence of interval colorectal cancer (iCRC) following a negative stool test result is not yet known. We aimed to compare incidence of iCRC following a negative FIT or gFOBT.
We searched Ovid Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, Science Citation Index, PubMed and Google Scholar from inception to 12 December 2017 for citations related to CRC screening based on stool tests. We included studies on FIT or gFOBT iCRC in average-risk screening populations. Main outcome was pooled incidence rate of iCRCs per 100 000 person-years (p-y). Pooled incidence rates were obtained by fitting random-effect Poisson regression models.
We identified 7 426 records and included 29 studies. Meta-analyses comprised data of 6 987 825 subjects with a negative test result, in whom 11 932 screen-detected CRCs and 5 548 gFOBT or FIT iCRCs were documented. Median faecal haemoglobin (Hb) positivity cut-off used was 20 (range 10-200) µg Hb/g faeces in the 17 studies that provided FIT results. Pooled incidence rates of iCRC following FIT and gFOBT were 20 (95% CI 14 to 29; I2=99%) and 34 (95% CI 20 to 57; I2=99%) per 100 000 p-y, respectively. Pooled incidence rate ratio of FIT versus gFOBT iCRC was 0.58 (95% CI 0.32 to 1.07; I2=99%) and 0.36 (95% CI 0.17 to 0.75; I2=10%) in sensitivity analysis. For every FIT iCRC, 2.6 screen-detected CRCs were found (ratio 1:2.6); for gFOBT, the ratio between iCRC and screen-detected CRC was 1:1.2. Age below 60 years and the third screening round were significantly associated with a lower iCRC rate.
A negative gFOBT result is associated with a higher iCRC incidence than a negative FIT. This supports the use of FIT over gFOBT as CRC screening tool.