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Faecal occult blood testing cuts deaths by a fifth

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 07 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1425

Experts are calling for a national screening programme for colon cancer after two major trials published last week showed that faecal blood testing every two years reduces death rates by nearly one fifth.

In the first study nearly 150 000 people aged 45–74 were randomly allocated to screening or control groups (Lancet 1996;348:1472-7). The screening group checked their stools for blood using a simple faecal occult blood test every two years. Those with positive results were offered full colonoscopy. After a median follow up time of nearly eight years the Nottingham researchers found that colorectal cancers were detected at an earlier, less dangerous stage in the screening group.

“The death rate was 15% lower,” …

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