In the population-based Swedish regional colorectal cancer (CRC) screening program of Stockholm-Gotland using the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), gender-specific cut-off levels of fecal hemoglobin are applied, since previous studies have indicated a lower sensitivity of FIT for CRC in women. The aim was to evaluate the diagnostic yield and the screening costs overall and per detected CRC of this strategy.
All individuals aged 60-69 invited to screening in 2015-2017 were included. Cut-off level for positive FIT was 40 µg/g in women and 80 µg/g in men. Those with a positive FIT were referred to colonoscopy. The yield of CRC and screening cost for the study period were assessed and compared to cut-off levels of 80 µg/g in both genders.
Approximately 230,000 individuals were invited. Overall participation rates were 72% in women and 65% in men ( < 0.05). FIT was positive in 4256 individuals (2.7% in both genders). In 3758 colonoscopies, 258 (6.9%) CRCs were detected. The positive predictive value for CRC was significantly higher in men (8.3% vs. 5.8%). In 120 women with CRC, 28 (23%) had FIT < 80 µg/g. Negative colonoscopies were more common in women (24% vs. 17%, 0.05). Total costs for the study period were 52,000,000SEK (≈5,200,000€), i.e. 16% higher compared to using cut-off levels of 80 µg/g in both genders, and corresponding to a 3% increment in cost per detected CRC.
The high rate of CRC detected in women in the lowest FIT category outweighs the minor reduction in screening costs if the same cut-off level was used as for men.