OBJECTIVES: The question of whether patients presenting for inguinal hernia repair require pre-operative assessment for colon cancer has remained unanswered. A case-control study is necessary to assess whether the prevalence of premalignant or malignant colonic lesions is higher in patients presenting with inguinal hernia compared to the general population. METHODS: Between 1990-2000, 614 inguinal herniorrhaphies were performed at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS). We retrospectively studied the 149 (24%) patients from this group with no prior history of colonic polyps, malignancy, or gastrointestinal bleeding who had flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy performed during the peri-operative period. Comparison was made to 149 controls undergoing colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy during the same time period for colon cancer (CRC) screening. RESULTS: The mean (±SEM) patient age was 67 ± 0.7 (range 31-92) yr in the hernia patients and 66 ± 0.8 (range 46-93) in the control group (p = 0.7). Eighty-two of the inguinal hernia patients had screening procedures performed preoperatively with a mean time (±SEM) of 1.4 ± 0.14 yr, while endoscopy was performed in the post-operative period for the remaining 67 patients (average time 2.7 ± 0.2 yr, p < 0.001). More patients underwent colonoscopy in the control group compared to the hernia cohort (p = 0.004). Seven (5%) patients in the hernia group were found to have colorectal cancer compared to six (4%) in the control group (p = 0.8). CONCLUSIONS: This study does not support previously published findings that patients with inguinal hernias are more likely to have premalignant colonic lesions. Patients with inguinal hernias should undergo screening for colon cancer at the same rate as the general population.
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