An ongoing case-control study to evaluate the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme.
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BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in both males and females in England. A national bowel cancer screening programme was rolled out in England between 2006 and 2010. In the post-randomised controlled trials epoch, assessment of the impact of the programme using observational studies is needed. This study protocol was set up at the request of the UK Policy Research Unit in Cancer Awareness, Screening and Early Diagnosis to evaluate the effect of the current bowel cancer screening programme on incidence of advanced primary colorectal cancer. METHODS/DESIGN: All incident cases of primary colorectal cancer in England will be included. Cases will be matched to controls with respect to sex, age, area of registration and year of first invitation to screening. Each evaluation round will cover a 2-year period, starting from January 2012, and ongoing thereafter. In the first instance, a pilot will be carried out in a single region. Variables related to colorectal tumour pathology will be obtained to enable selection and matching of cases and controls, and to allow analyses stratification by anatomical subsite within the bowel. Cases at Duke's stage B or worse will be considered as "advanced stage". The influence of sex will also be investigated. The incidence ratio observed in randomised controlled trials between controls (not invited) and non-attender invitees will be used to correct for self-selection bias overall. Screening participation at other national screening programmes (cervical, breast) will also be collected to derive a more contemporaneous adjustment factor for self-selection bias and assess consistency in self-selection correction in female patients.Full ethical approval was obtained from the Health Research Authority. DISCUSSION: The case-control design is potentially prone to a number of biases. The size of the planned study, the design specifications and the development of analytical strategies to cope with bias should enable us to obtain accurate estimates of reduction in incidence of advanced stage disease. The results of analyses by sex and anatomical subsite may highlight the potential need for sex-specific recommendations in the programme.