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Randomized trials have shown that annual or biannual screening by guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests (gFOBTs) reduces colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality. Few clinical studies have evaluated diagnostic performance of gFOBT through validation by colonoscopy in all participants. We aimed for a comprehensive evaluation of diagnostic performance of gFOBT by age and sex under routine screening conditions.Our analysis is based on 20,884 colonoscopies following up a positive gFOBT and 182,956 primary screening colonoscopies documented in a state-wide quality assurance program in Bavaria, Germany, in 2007–2009. Positive likelihood ratios (LR+), which represent an integrative measure of diagnostic performance, were derived, by age groups (55–59, 60–64, 65–69, 70–74 years) and sex, from a joint and comparative analysis of prevalences of colorectal neoplasms in both groups.Overall LR+ (95% confidence intervals) were 1.11 (1.06–1.15), 1.80 (1.72–1.88), and 5.04 (4.64–5.47) for non-advanced adenoma, advanced adenoma, and cancer, respectively. Assuming a specificity of gFOBT of 95.2%, as recently observed in a German study among 2,235 participants of screening colonoscopy, these LR+ would translate to sensitivities of 5.3%, 8.6%, and 24.2% for the three outcomes, respectively. Diagnostic performance was similarly poor among women and men and across age groups.The performance of gFOBT under routine screening conditions is even worse than previously estimated from clinical studies. In routine screening application, gFOBTs are expected to miss more than 9 out of 10 advanced adenomas and 3 out of 4 cancers. These results underline the need and the potential for better noninvasive CRC screening tests.