BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening reduces all-cause and CRC-related mortality. New research demonstrates that the faecal haemoglobin concentration (f-Hb) may indicate the presence of other serious diseases not related to CRC. We investigated the association between f-Hb, measured by a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), and both all-cause mortality and cause of death in a population-wide cohort of screening participants.
METHODS: Between 2014 and 2018, 1,262,165 participants submitted a FIT for the Danish CRC screening programme. We followed these participants, using the Danish CRC Screening Database and several other national registers on health and population, until December 31, 2018. We stratified participants by f-Hb and compared them using a Cox proportional hazards regression on all-cause mortality and cause of death reported as adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs). We adjusted for several covariates, including comorbidity, socioeconomic factors, demography and prescription medication.
RESULTS: We observed 21,847 deaths in the study period. Our multivariate analyses indicated an association relationship between increasing f-Hb and the risk of dying in the study period. This risk increased steadily from aHR 1.38 (95% CI: 1.32, 1.44) in those with a f-Hb of 7.1-11.9 μg Hb/g faeces to 2.20 (95% CI: 2.10, 2.30) in those with a f-Hb ≥60.0 μg Hb/g faeces, when compared to those with a f-Hb ≤7.0 μg Hb/g faeces. The pattern remained when excluding CRC from the analysis. Similar patterns were observed between incrementally increasing f-Hb and the risk of dying from respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease and cancers other than CRC. Furthermore, we observed an increased risk of dying from CRC with increasing f-Hb.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the hypothesis that f-Hb may indicate an elevated risk of having chronic conditions if causes for the bleeding have not been identified. The mechanisms still need to be established, but f-Hb may be a potential biomarker for several non-CRC diseases.