Background: The effectiveness of screening colonoscopy in average-risk adults is uncertain, particularly for right colon cancer.
Objective: To examine the association between screening colonoscopy and risk for incident late-stage colorectal cancer (CRC).
Design: Nested case–control study.
Setting: Four U.S. health plans.
Patients: 1039 average-risk adults enrolled for at least 5 years in one of the health plans. Case patients were aged 55 to 85 years on their diagnosis date (reference date) of stage IIB or higher (late-stage) CRC during 2006 to 2008. One or 2 control patients were selected for each case patient, matched on birth year, sex, health plan, and prior enrollment duration.
Measurements: Receipt of CRC screening 3 months to 10 years before the reference date, ascertained through medical record audits. Case patients and control patients were compared on receipt of screening colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy by using conditional logistic regression that accounted for health history, socioeconomic status, and other screening exposures.
Results: In analyses restricted to 471 eligible case patients and their 509 matched control patients, 13 case patients (2.8%) and 46 control patients (9.0%) had undergone screening colonoscopy, which corresponded to an adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 0.29 (95% CI, 0.15 to 0.58) for any late-stage CRC, 0.36 (CI, 0.16 to 0.80) for right colon cancer, and 0.26 (CI, 0.06 to 1.11; P = 0.069) for left colon/rectum cancer. Ninety-two case patients (19.5%) and 173 control patients (34.0%) had screening sigmoidoscopy, corresponding to an AOR of 0.50 (CI, 0.36 to 0.70) overall, 0.79 (CI, 0.51 to 1.23) for right colon late-stage cancer, and 0.26 (CI, 0.14 to 0.48) for left colon cancer.
Limitation: The small number of screening colonoscopies affected the precision of the estimates.
Conclusion: Screening with colonoscopy in average-risk persons was associated with reduced risk for diagnosis of incident late-stage CRC, including right-sided colon cancer. For sigmoidoscopy, this association was seen for left CRC, but the association for right colon late-stage cancer was not statistically significant.
Primary Funding Source: National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.