About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update of the Scottish bowel screening programme statistics up to March 2020 including uptake, positivity and clinical outcomes.

A new bowel screening test, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), was launched on 20th November 2017, replacing the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). This publication is the first to be based solely on data relating to FIT.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all national screening programmes – including bowel screening – were paused in Scotland in March 2020.

Main points

For the invitation period May 2018 to March 2020:

  • Uptake was 63%, above the Health Improvement Scotland standard of 60%. A gap exists between the sexes, though both females (65%) and males (61%) were above the standard.
  • There was a 21 percentage point difference in uptake between the least deprived (72%) and most deprived (51%) groups. The lowest uptake was in males living in the most deprived areas (50%)
Image caption Uptake by deprivation quintile and sex
Uptake by deprivation quintile and sex
  • Of those who received a colonoscopy as a result of a positive FIT, 5% had cancer and 46% had an adenoma (a benign growth which can become cancerous)
  • 28% of colonoscopies were performed within four weeks of referral, with 28% between four and eight weeks. The remaining 44% were performed more than eight weeks after referral.


Bowel cancer is the third most commonly occurring cancer in Scotland and the second most common cause of death from cancer. The purpose of screening is to identify bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be effective. Bowel screening can also identify benign growths (adenomas) that can be removed. The removal of these benign growths has been shown to reduce a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

This publication relates to eligible men and women aged between 50-74 years old, who are invited to be screened every two years. Eligible people are posted a test kit which is completed at home. Since 1 April 2013, those aged 75 and over can also self-refer and opt into screening, though this group is not included within the publication. Ordinarily, this publication would have contained information on invitations up to April 2020, but now is restricted to invitations up to March 2020, when the programme was paused.

Further information

Data from this publication is available to download from the data files section of this page.

The next release of this publication will be August 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.cancerstats@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 13 June 2022
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