Background: Adjusting the threshold for positivity of quantitative fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) allows for controlling the number of follow-up colonoscopies in a screening program. However, it is unknown to what extent higher cutoff levels affect detection rates of screen-relevant neoplasia. This study aimed to assess the effect of higher cutoff levels of a quantitative FIT on test positivity rate and detection rate of early-stage colorectal cancers (CRC).
Methods: Subjects above 40 years old scheduled for colonoscopy in 5 hospitals were asked to sample a single FIT (OC sensor) before colonoscopy. Screen-relevant neoplasia were defined as advanced adenoma or early-stage cancer (stage I and II). Positivity rate, sensitivity, and specificity were evaluated at increasing cutoff levels of 50 to 200 ng/mL.
Results: In 2,145 individuals who underwent total colonoscopy, 79 patients were diagnosed with CRC, 38 of which were with early-stage disease. Advanced adenomas were found in 236 patients. When varying cutoff levels from ≥50 to ≥200 ng/mL, positivity rates ranged from 16.5% to 10.2%. With increasing cutoff levels, sensitivity for early-stage CRCs and for screen-relevant neoplasia ranged from 84.2% to 78.9% and 47.1% to 37.2%, respectively.
Conclusions: Higher FIT cutoff levels substantially decrease test positivity rates with only limited effects on detection rates of early-stage CRCs. However, spectrum bias resulting in higher estimates of sensitivity than would be expected in a screening population may be present. Impact: Higher cutoff levels can reduce strain on colonoscopy capacity with only a modest decrease in sensitivity for curable cancers.,
Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention
Department of Public Health

Terhaar sive Droste, J., Oort, F., van der Hulst, R., van Heukelem, H., Loffeld, R., Van Turenhout, S. T., … Mulder, C. (2011). Higher fecal immunochemical test cutoff levels: Lower positivity rates but still acceptable detection rates for early-stage colorectal cancers. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 20(2), 272–280. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-10-0848