Trace Amounts of Blood in Stool Increases Risk of Early Death, Study Says

According to a story from Physician’s Weekly, a recent study found that small amounts of invisible blood in stool increases the possibility of early death from other causes. The study used a common screening test for colon cancer to detect blood in fecal samples. The research team looked at a massive pool of data from 133,921 Scottish adults. The test used is called the fecal occult blood test (FOBT).

Study Results

From this group, 2,714 people tested positive. A positive test result can indicate that a person may have colon cancer, or even several other types of rare cancer. Those that tested positive saw their risk of dying from colon cancer increase eight fold. In addition, the analysis found that they were 58 percent greater risk of dying from other causes as well. Senior study author Robert Steele says that blood in the stool can be a sign for a diverse array of both common and rare disease, and may indicate a need for changes to diet and lifestyle.

One Sign, Many Causes

The causes of death cited in the study reflect the diversity of potential illnesses that blood in the stool can indicate. These causes included hormone, neuropsychological, respiratory, blood, and digestive illnesses, as well as several different kinds of cancer. Prior research has connected bloody stool to a reduced life expectancy. The data came from participants that were anywhere from 50 to 74 years of age.

Risk Factors and Future Research

Being old, male, having a prescription for aspirin and/or other NSAIDs (which increase the risk of internal bleeding), and low income increased the probability of having a positive FOBT result. The study did not explain how a positive FOBT result increased the risk of early death. Activity such as inflammation may be a factor, and some cancers, such as stomach cancer, also bleed. The authors cite the need for more research into the subject in order to further elucidate the correlation, and say that there is no current need for patients to seek FOBT screening for any purpose beyond the detection of colon cancer.

Once more research is done, the link between diseases and blood in the stool can be more clearly understood.

You can find the original study here.

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