The UK guideline recommends 3-yearly surveillance for patients with intermediate-risk (IR) adenomas. No study has examined whether or not this group has heterogeneity in surveillance needs.
To examine the effect of surveillance on colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence; assess heterogeneity in risk; and identify the optimum frequency of surveillance, the psychological impact of surveillance, and the cost-effectiveness of alternative follow-up strategies.
Retrospective multicentre cohort study.
Routine endoscopy and pathology data from 17 UK hospitals (n = 11,944), and a screening data set comprising three pooled cohorts (n = 2352), followed up using cancer registries.
Patients with IR adenoma(s) (three or four small adenomas or one or two large adenomas).
Advanced adenoma (AA) and CRC detected at follow-up visits, and CRC incidence after baseline and first follow-up.
The effects of surveillance on long-term CRC incidence and of interval length on findings at follow-up were examined using proportional hazards and logistic regression, adjusting for patient, procedural and polyp characteristics. Lower-intermediate-risk (LIR) subgroups and higher-intermediate-risk (HIR) subgroups were defined, based on predictors of CRC risk.
A model-based cost–utility analysis compared 13 surveillance strategies. Between-group analyses of variance were used to test for differences in bowel cancer worry between screening outcome groups (n = 35,700).
A limitation of using routine hospital data is the potential for missed examinations and underestimation of the effect of interval and surveillance.
In the hospital data set, 168 CRCs occurred during 81,442 person-years (pys) of follow-up [206 per 100,000 pys, 95% confidence interval (CI) 177 to 240 pys]. One surveillance significantly lowered CRC incidence, both overall [hazard ratio (HR) 0.51, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.77] and in the HIR subgroup (n = 9265; HR 0.50, 95% CI 0.34 to 0.76). In the LIR subgroup (n = 2679) the benefit of surveillance was less clear (HR 0.62, 95% CI 0.16 to 2.43). Additional surveillance lowered CRC risk in the HIR subgroup by a further 15% (HR 0.36, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.62). The odds of detecting AA and CRC at first follow-up (FUV1) increased by 18% [odds ratio (OR) 1.18, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.24] and 32% (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.46) per year increase in interval, respectively, and the odds of advanced neoplasia at second follow-up increased by 22% (OR 1.22, 95% CI 1.09 to 1.36), after adjustment. Detection rates of AA and CRC remained below 10% and 1%, respectively, with intervals to 3 years. In the screening data set, 32 CRCs occurred during 25,745 pys of follow-up (124 per 100,000 pys, 95% CI 88 to 176 pys). One follow-up conferred a significant 73% reduction in CRC incidence (HR 0.27, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.71). Owing to the small number of end points in this data set, no other outcome was significant. Although post-screening bowel cancer worry was higher in people who were offered surveillance, worry was due to polyp detection rather than surveillance. The economic evaluation, using data from the hospital data set, suggested that 3-yearly colonoscopic surveillance without an age cut-off would produce the greatest health gain.
A single surveillance benefited all IR patients by lowering their CRC risk. We identified a higher-risk subgroup that benefited from further surveillance, and a lower-risk subgroup that may require only one follow-up.
A surveillance interval of 3 years seems suitable for most IR patients. These findings should be validated in other studies to confirm whether or not one surveillance visit provides adequate protection for the lower-risk subgroup of intermediate-risk patients.
The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.