Although colonoscopies in older age may help detect colon cancer early on, a new study has found that for those over the age of 75 may not benefit as much from this form of cancer prevention. Based on review of over 1.3 million Medicare patients aged 70 to 79, the study found that undergoing a colonoscopy slightly reduced the risk of colon cancer over eight years in those under 75, but little benefit was seen among those over the age of 75.
Robert Smith, vice president for cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, explained, “The issue is with older adults whether or not there is any benefit for screening. After 75, you can make individualized decisions [about] whether screening is appropriate.”
Currently, colon cancer screening is recommended for people over the age of 50 to 75.
Lead author Dr. Xabier Garcia-Albeniz said, “Patients, physicians, and policymakers may want to consider these findings when making decisions about colorectal cancer screening, especially in upper age groups.”
Smith added, “Healthy older people benefit from screening. But you’re not going to benefit if you are likely to die from something else. If you have colon cancer but are likely to die before there are symptoms, then screening doesn’t help very much.”
There are other noninvasive ways to screen for colon cancer, including fecal occult blood test or CT colonoscopy. Regardless, the question still remains whether people over the age of 75 will benefit from colon cancer screening.