BBC News UK Edition
    You are in: Health  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Medical notes
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 01:37 GMT
Fry-up 'could skew cancer test'
Mmm...breakfast including black pudding
Traditional breakfasts containing black pudding could interfere with the results of a screening test for bowel cancer, say experts.

A study in the town of Bury, widely acknowledged as the "black pudding capital of the world", suggested that overindulgence in the delicacy could skew the results of tests designed to pick up early signs of the disease.

The study, by doctors from Liverpool, Preston, Bristol and Bury, is published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.

Many people happily tuck into black pudding as part of the traditional English breakfast - until they are informed that black pudding is made from a mixture of ox blood, oatmeal, fat and spices.

However, this does not deter everyone.

A survey of the population around Bury found that one in 12 had black pudding weekly, 30% monthly, 23% at least once a year, with a third saying they had never tried it.

Tests by the doctors, however, reveal how it can interfere with the screening results.

Blood sign

One of the possible screening methods for bowel cancer is called "faecal occult" testing, which looks for the presence of blood in a sample of faeces.

Normally, if it is there, it is a sign that there may be a bleeding cancerous lesion at some point along the bowel.

However, the latest study used 10 volunteers below the age of 35, who produced stool samples both before, and then after eating seven ounces of black pudding.

While at first all 10 turned out negative tests, after the black pudding, four gave positive results.

The normal practice following a confirmed positive result would be to refer the patient for further examination with a probe to examine the colon, but fortunately, the test is normally repeated beforehand after the patient has eaten a bland, meat-free diet for a week or so.


At current consumption rates, during a screen of the population around Bury, roughly 4,775 of them would have eaten black pudding.

This means that, in theory, 1,909 could produce this "false positive" result.

Gastroenterologist Dr Richard Harvey, one of the study authors, told BBC News Online that while this was only a semi-serious study, it drew attention to a serious issue.

He said: "If we had a colorectal screening programme similar in the same way we have one for cervical screening, it would save five times as many women's lives.

"Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer in the UK."

See also:

16 Jul 02 | Health
25 Oct 01 | Health
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |