Dr. Beth Liles, review co-author and clinical investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said tests that require patients to collect a single stool sample at home and then send it to a lab for analysis will detect about 79 percent of colorectal cancers.
Liles and colleagues reviewed 19 studies using eight different fecal immunochemical tests, known as FITs.
The review, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found the FITs will correctly identify about 94 percent of patients who do not have cancers of the rectum or colon.
"We know the FIT is easy to use, and now we also know that it is a great tool for assessing which patients have cancer and which patients don't," Liles says in a statement.
The review found, on average, the tests detected 79 percent, or about 4-of-5 cancers with only one round of testing.
By comparison, studies indicate another at-home test called fecal occult blood test -- also known as FOBT -- detected only about 13 percent to 50 percent of cancers after a single round of testing. The FOBT is the predecessor to FIT and requires three stool samples as well as medication and dietary restrictions.
The study also found a no single FIT performed markedly better than another, but the authors cautioned there was only one study comparing brands head-to-head. Most of the FITs required collection of only one stool sample. Surprisingly, the authors found brands requiring two or three stool samples were no more accurate than those requiring only one sample.
Unlike older stool tests, the FIT does not require people to restrict their diets or to stop taking medications.