Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 41–46 | Cite as

Estimating key parameters in FOBT screening for colorectal cancer

  • Dongfeng WuEmail author
  • Diane Erwin
  • Gary L. Rosner
Original Paper



The association between screening sensitivity, transition probability, and individual’s age in FOBT for colorectal cancer are explored, for both males and females.


We apply the statistical method developed by Wu et al. [1] using the Minnesota colorectal cancer study group data, to make Bayesian inference for the age-dependent screening test sensitivity, the age-dependent transition probability from disease-free to preclinical state, and the sojourn time distribution, for both male and female participants in a periodic screening program. This gives us more information on the effectiveness of the fecal occult blood test in colorectal cancer detection.


The sensitivity appears to increase with age for both genders. However, the posterior mean sensitivity is not monotonic with age for males; it has a peak around age 74. The standard errors of the sensitivity are not monotone either; there is a minimum at age 69 for males and at age 78 for females. The age-dependent transition probability is not a monotone function of age; it has a single maximum at age 72 for males and a single maximum at age 75 for females. The age dependency seems more dramatic for females than for males. The posterior mean sojourn time is 4.08 years for males and 2.41 years for females, with a posterior median of 1.66 years for males and 1.88 years for females. The 95% highest posterior density (HPD) interval is (0.97, 20.28) for males and (1.15, 5.96) for females, which are very large ranges, especially for males. The reason might be that there were fewer men than women in the annual screening program.


Reliable estimates of age-dependent sensitivity and transition probability are of great value to policy-makers regarding the initial age for colorectal cancer screening exams. We found that the mean sojourn time for males is much longer than that for females, which may imply that FOBT screening for colorectal cancer may be more effective for males than for females.


Sensitivity Transition probability Sojourn time Colorectal cancer screening Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Stuart Baker from National Cancer Institute for valuable comments and suggestions. This research was partially supported by the NIH grant CA-115012.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Information SciencesUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Information Management Services, Inc.RockvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics and Applied MathematicsM. D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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