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  • Each year, close to 2 million people around the world are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and roughly 935,000 people die from it.
  • Scientists say they have developed a new stool test that is more effective at detecting colorectal cancer than similar tests currently on the market.
  • A new stool test could help people get diagnosed earlier.

Scientists developed a new test that may help detect signs of colorectal cancer earlier and more effectively than the current tests, research led by the Netherlands Cancer Institute suggests.

The study, published in The Lancet this month, found that the stool test could improve colorectal cancer outcomes and increase chances of survival.

Colorectal cancer is curable if detected early. However, many people don’t get diagnosed until they have late-stage symptoms.

Each year, close to 2 million people around the world are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 930,000 people die from it, according to the World Health Organization.

While the current stool tests used to detect colorectal cancer have substantially reduced rates of mortality from colorectal cancer, they aren’t perfect and occasionally produce false negatives.

“There is a new stool test that is better than the current stool test at detecting pre-cancers, which means that more people who have polyps will be able to get colonoscopies and get those polyps removed before they have a chance to become cancers,” said Dr. Cindy Kin, a colorectal surgeon with Stanford Medicine.

Kin was not involved in the research.

Stool tests do not replace colonoscopies. According to the American Cancer Society, people in good health should start regular screening at age 45 and wait about 10 years between colonoscopies.

Most colorectal cancer screening tests used around the world are fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), which measure levels of the blood protein hemoglobin in stool samples.

Low levels of hemoglobin can be a sign of colon cancer.

The new test is a multitargetFIT-test (mtFIT), which evaluates hemoglobin levels along with two other proteins that are biomarkers for colon cancer: calprotectin, and serpin family F member 2.

For the new study, the researchers investigated the effectiveness of the mtFIT test compared to the FIT test among 13,187 people in the Netherlands between the ages of 55 and 75.

They found that the mtFIT test was more effective at detecting signs of colorectal cancer.

The mtFIT test identified 299 people with abnormal protein levels, whereas the current FIT test identified 159 people with abnormal results.

The newer test was better at detecting polyps and growths that warranted a follow-up colonoscopy.

The researchers believe the new test can help doctors identify cases of colorectal cancer earlier, thereby reducing the risk of death from colorectal cancer.

They estimated that a new mtFIT test could lead to a 21% reduction in cases of colorectal cancer and 18% fewer deaths.

The currently available stool tests don’t catch 100% of cancers and high-risk polyps, according to Dr. Anton Bilchik, MD, PhD, a surgical oncologist and chief of medicine and Director of the Gastrointestinal and Hepatobiliary Program at Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, CA.

They also aren’t as sensitive as colonoscopies, says Kin, and these stool tests need to be done every year to boost the chances of detecting high-risk polyps or cancers.

The new stool test, which is more sensitive, could help doctors identify more polyps that have the potential to become cancer.

“Removal of these polyps by colonoscopy significantly reduces the risk of getting colon cancer,” says Bilchik.

Early detection and treatment would also improve the chances of survival, he added.

The test has only been evaluated in the Netherlands and future studies are needed to compare the mtFIT test against the commercially-available FIT tests before it can be put to use.

A new colorectal screening test may be able to catch more cancers and high-risk polyps than the currently available tests, new research found. The current stool tests don’t catch all polyps and cancers, and a more sensitive test could prevent many cases of colon cancer and reduce mortality.