A doctor goes over a patient’s X-ray as part of a screening for colon cancer.
American Cancer Society/Getty Images

Clinical trial results for a noninvasive colon-cancer test approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration indicate that it is promising as an effective alternative to colonoscopy for African Americans, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The DNA-screening method, called stool DNA (sDNA), detected precancer in African Americans at rates similar to or higher than those of other racial groups. And in some respects, it was more effective than another often-utilized noninvasive screening method, called the fecal immunochemical test, or FIT.


The American Cancer Society reports that African Americans have the highest colorectal-cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the U.S. but are less likely to get screened.

The researchers call the colonoscopy the “gold standard” of colorectal-cancer screening. But many people don’t have access to the procedure or refuse to tolerate the preparation for the test. The noninvasive alternatives can be ordered through a health care provider and performed in the privacy of one’s home.

“Given the known racial disparities in colonoscopies between African Americans and other racial groups, this noninvasive technology may offer a promising screening alternative,” said Dr. Gregory Cooper, the clinical primary investigator for the study.

Case Western is a pioneer in DNA testing for colon cancer. The team of researchers discovered a specific DNA change that takes place in colorectal cancers. They then created techniques for detecting the DNA change when it was expelled from the body in feces. That research led to the first FDA-approved stool-DNA home-screening test last year.