Gut 46:795-800 doi:10.1136/gut.46.6.795
  • Cancer

Faecal calprotectin levels in a high risk population for colorectal neoplasia


BACKGROUND Faecal concentrations of the protein calprotectin have been found to be elevated in patients with colorectal neoplasia, suggesting that it might be used as a screening tool for colorectal cancer as well as adenomas.

AIMS To measure the sensitivity and specificity of faecal calprotectin for the detection of adenomas in high risk individuals undergoing colonoscopy. Also, to investigate between and within stool variability of calprotectin concentrations.

SUBJECTS A total of 814 patients planned for colonoscopy were included for the following indications: positive faecal occult blood test, 25; neoplasia surveillance, 605; newly detected polyp, 130; and family risk, 54.

METHODS Two faecal samples from each of two stools were analysed using the PhiCal ELISA test device (Nycomed Pharma AS).

RESULTS Adenoma patients had significantly higher calprotectin levels than normal subjects (median 9.1 (95% confidence interval 7.5–10.1)v 6.6 (5.6–7.4)mg/l). There was no significant decrease in calprotectin levels after polypectomy. Levels in cancer patients were significantly higher than those in all other subgroups (median 17.6 mg/l (11.5–31.0)). With a cut off limit of 10 mg/l, the sensitivity for cancer was 74% and for adenoma 43%. Corresponding specificity values were 64% for no cancer and 67% for no neoplasia (cancer+adenoma). Specificity varied from 71% for one stool sample to 63% for four samples. Stool variability was small, suggesting that two spots from one stool were as discriminative as two spots from each of two stools.

CONCLUSIONS The sensitivity and specificity of faecal calprotectin levels as a marker for colorectal adenoma and carcinoma justifies its use in high risk groups, but specificity is too low for screening of average risk persons. Lack of a decrease in levels after polypectomy may be due to a more widespread leucocyte migration into the intestinal lumen than that at the polyp site, and needs further investigation.


  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    colorectal cancer