Black pudding may interfere with cancer screening test

December 19, 2002

Eating black pudding may interfere with a screening test for colorectal cancer, claim researchers in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.

The Haemoccult test is widely used to screen for colorectal cancer. It uses blood derivatives passed in the stool to detect gastrointestinal bleeding. People testing positive then have a colonoscopy.

The research team identified 10 healthy volunteers from the Lancashire town of Bury, famed for black pudding (a regional delicacy consisting of congealed pigs' blood, fat, and rusk, encased in a length of intestine). All volunteers were below the age of 35 with no family history of colorectal cancer. Each participant completed a Haemoccult test requiring six specimens to be taken from stools passed over three consecutive days.

Participants then eagerly ate a locally produced 7oz black pudding and then had a further Haemoccult test. The tests were analysed at Bury General Hospital. A positive test result was defined as the occurrence of one or more positive specimens from the six provided.

Initially all volunteers returned negative tests, but after consumption of black pudding, four people tested positive. Ingestion of black pudding resulted in a significantly higher proportion of positive Haemoccult test results.

To calculate the effect of this on a population screening programme, the authors questioned 100 people about their black pudding consumption. Almost two-thirds (63%) succumbed to black pudding on occasion. Based on these figures, the authors calculate that more than twice the number of people than expected would test positive and would need further investigation.

As a result, patients should be advised to avoid black pudding during screening, they conclude.


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