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To reduce mortality associated with colorectal cancer, an increased interest has focused in recent years on screening of colorectal cancer. No studies of colorectal cancer screening in Finland has been reported. A pilot study of screening sigmoidoscopy was started in 1994 and the results are presented in this paper.Between March 1994 and May 2000 all 1224 persons aged 60 years from four communities (population 15 400) were invited to screening sigmoidoscopy; 896 (73%) took part in this study. The screening procedure was flexible sigmoidoscopy to 60 centimetres. All the patients who had adenomas or cancers, were invited to have a double contrast barium enema (DCBE) or colonoscopy to investigate the proximal colon. To study the experience of persons undergoing screening sigmoidoscopy, a questionnaire was sent to 81 consecutive persons after the examination. Sixty persons (74%) returned the filled-in questionnaire.Hyperplastic polyps were found in 136 people (15.2% of the whole material). Hyperplastic polyps were more common in males than females (19.3% and 11.4%, respectively, P = 0.0015). People with hyperplastic polyps had the same rate of neoplasia as people without. Neoplastic lesions were found in 65 people. Adenomas were found in 62 patients (6.9%). Twenty-five people (2.8%) had at least one advanced adenoma (>10 mm or villous component). The rate of advanced adenomas in males was 4.9% and in females 0.9% (P = 0.0006). Three patients (0.3%) were found to have colorectal cancer. Of 43 diabetic patients, 7 (16.3%) had adenomas whereas 6.5% of the non-diabetic persons had adenomas (P = 0.03). The proximal colon was investigated in 34 patients by DCBE and/or colonoscopy and the rate of proximal adenomas in patients with neoplastic findings in screening sigmoidoscopy was 5/34 (14.7%). Concerning the experience of screening sigmoidoscopy, 56 persons (93%) found bowel preparation easy and 4 unpleasant, 55 (92%) experienced either no or mild discomfort during the endoscopy whereas 5 found the examination painful; 59 people (98%) said that they would participate again in screening sigmoidoscopy.In this study of screening sigmoidosopy, the first published in Finland, adenoma rate was 6.9%, advanced adenoma rate was 2.8% and cancer rate was 0.3%. Males had more hyperplastic polyps and advanced adenomas than females. Diabetic people had more adenomas than non-diabetics. Experiences of the people screened were positive and nearly all said that they would participate again in screening sigmoidoscopy.