National cancer screening program for colorectal cancer in Korea

Seung Min Baik, Ryung Ah Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Korea, ranking 4th and 3rd among men and women, respectively. It is also the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women older than 64 years. This study assessed the National Cancer Screening Program for colorectal cancer and examined its efficacy in enhancing public health. The fecal occult blood test (FOBT), a traditional noninvasive colorectal cancer screening test that can be performed on an outpatient basis was replaced with the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) because of the latter’s better predictive value. Since 2004, the Government of South Korea has recommended an annual FIT for people aged 50 years and older as the first step in colorectal cancer screening. Individuals who test positive on the FIT are scheduled for follow-up screening procedures, such as colonoscopy or double-contrast barium enema, whereas those who have a negative FOBT are not recommended for colonoscopy. Colonoscopy, as a screening tool in Korea, has definite merits because it is highly accessible to patients and is performed by qualified specialists. Although the domestic colorectal cancer screening rate is relatively stable, there is scope for improvement. Owing to the low cost of colonoscopy and the wealth of skilled endoscopy specialists, the number of intention-to-screen procedures for colonoscopy has increased. As Korea is rapidly becoming an ultra-elderly society, it is time to reconsider the revision of the classical screening program and recommend region-specific, cost-effective guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-340
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Surgical Treatment and Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023, the Korean Surgical Society.


  • Colorectal neoplasms
  • Early detection of cancer
  • Endoscopy
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Occult blood


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