Following a negative complete colonoscopy, those who had their colonoscopies at a hospital and had their procedures performed by a non-gastroenterologist may be at a significantly increased risk of developing subsequent colorectal cancer (CRC), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute.
"The overall incidence of colorectal cancer is reduced for at least 10 years following a negative colonoscopy, compared with the general population. However, colorectal cancers do occur in individuals following a negative colonoscopy," said Linda Rabeneck, MD, MPH, of the University of Toronto and lead author of this study. "For this reason, having extensive formal training matters, especially when procedures are more challenging to perform. We found that among those physicians who perform colonoscopy in the hospital setting, gastroenterologists are more proficient at colonoscopy than other physicians, including general surgeons. This may reflect the considerable formal training in endoscopy that forms part of gastroenterology core training requirements in the U.S. and Canada."
AGA considers colonoscopy to be the gold standard for detecting and removing adenomas, and colonoscopic polypectomy is associated with a reduced incidence of CRC. Colonoscopy is endorsed as an option for CRC screening by the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
"March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which provides the perfect reminder to patients aged 50 and older that they need to be screened for colorectal cancer," said Gail A. Hecht, MD, MS, AGAF, president of the AGA Institute. "Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death, but it is one of the most preventable cancers when caught earlier. We cannot emphasize strongly enough that screening saves lives. Patients should talk to their doctors to discuss all of their colorectal cancer screening options."
Doctors identified a cohort of 110,402 Ontario residents, 50 to 80 years old, who had a negative complete colonoscopy between Jan. 1, 1992, and Dec. 31, 1997. Cohort members had no prior history of CRC, inflammatory bowel disease or a recent colonic resection. Each individual was followed through Dec. 31, 2006, and those with a new diagnosis of CRC were identified.
During the 15-year follow-up period, 1,596 (14.5 percent) developed CRC. There was no association between the average number of colonoscopies performed and a diagnosis of CRC. Among those who had their colonoscopies at a hospital, which was the majority (86 percent), those who had their procedures performed by a non-gastroenterologist, e.g., general surgeon, internist or family physician, were at significantly increased risk for developing subsequent CRC. For those who underwent their colonoscopies in a private office/clinic, endoscopist specialty was not significantly associated with incident CRC. These study findings suggest that endoscopist specialty is an important determinant of the effectiveness of colonoscopy in usual clinical practice.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
The incidence of CRC has declined in recent years in part due to screening for the disease. However, many Americans haven't gotten the message about screening. There are a number of options for screening -- stool blood test, sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT colonography (or "virtual colonoscopy") -- and some confusion about which test is best. Everyone age 50 and older should talk with their doctor to determine which test is right for them. The most important message to share this month, and any time, is to get screened. CRC screening saves lives.
About the AGA Institute
The American Gastroenterological Association is the trusted voice of the GI community. Founded in 1897, the AGA has grown to include 17,000 members from around the globe who are involved in all aspects of the science, practice and advancement of gastroenterology. The AGA Institute administers the practice, research and educational programs of the organization. www.gastro.org.
About Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
The mission of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology is to provide readers with a broad spectrum of themes in clinical gastroenterology and hepatology. This monthly peer-reviewed journal includes original articles as well as scholarly reviews, with the goal that all articles published will be immediately relevant to the practice of gastroenterology and hepatology. For more information, visit www.cghjournal.org.