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Interval cancer after colonoscopy in the Austrian National Screening Programme: influence of physician and patient factors


Objective Postscreening colorectal cancer (PSCRC) after screening colonoscopy is associated with endoscopists’ performance and characteristics of resected lesions. Prior studies have shown that adenoma detection rate (ADR) is a decisive factor for PSCRC, but correlations with other parameters need further analysis and ADR may change over time.

Design Cohort study including individuals undergoing screening colonoscopy between 1/2008 and 12/2019 performed by physicians participating in a quality assurance programme in Austria. Data were linked with hospitalisation data for the diagnosis of PSCRC (defined as CRC diagnosis >6 months after colonoscopy). ADR was defined dynamically in relation to the time point of subsequent colonoscopies; high-risk groups of patients were those with an adenoma ≥10 mm, or with high-grade dysplasia, or villous or tubulovillous histology, or a serrated lesion ≥10 mm or with dysplasia, or colonoscopies with ≥3 lesions. Main outcome was PSCRC for each risk group (negative colonoscopy, hyperplastic polyps, low-risk and high-risk group of patients) after colonoscopy by endoscopists with an ADR <20% compared with endoscopists with an ADR ≥20%.

Results 352 685 individuals were included in the study (51.0% women, median age 60 years) of which 10.5% were classified as high-risk group. During a median follow-up of 55.4 months, 241 (0.06%) PSCRC were identified; of 387 participating physicians, 19.6% had at least one PSCRC (8.4% two or more). While higher endoscopist ADR decreased PSCRC incidence (HR per 1% increase 0.97, 95% CI 0.95 to 0.98), affiliation to the high-risk group of patients was also associated with higher PSCRC incidence (HR 3.27, 95% CI 2.36 to 4.00). Similar correlations were seen with regards to high-risk, and advanced adenomas. The risk for PSCRC was significantly higher after colonoscopy by an endoscopist with an ADR <20% as compared with an endoscopist with an ADR ≥20% in patients after negative colonoscopy (HR 2.01, 95% CI 1.35 to 3.0, p<0.001) and for the high-risk group of patients (HR 2.51, 95% CI 1.49 to 4.22, p<0.001).

Conclusion A dynamic calculation of the ADR takes into account changes over time but confirms the correlation of ADR and interval cancer. Both lesion characteristics and endoscopists ADR may play a similar role for the risk of PSCRC. This should be considered in deciding about appropriate surveillance intervals in the future.

  • colonic adenomas
  • colorectal cancer screening

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as online supplemental information.

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