Someone who’s very healthy should consider some form of screening up to age 86 — but even a person with severe health problems could benefit from a first-time check up to age 80, the team reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.
In the healthiest patients, a colonoscopy was the most effective choice up to age 83, while a stool test was the better choice for 85- and 86-year-olds, the researchers found.
The results are a bit surprising, said Dr. Richard C. Wender, the American Cancer Society’s chief of cancer control.
“Our sense was, if we’re going to screen beyond age 75, it should only be in very healthy people,” said Wender, who wasn’t part of the new study. “This model I think will help us give clearer advice to the public.”
The bigger message
About 137,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, the cancer society estimates. About 50,000 colon cancer patients will die.
Upper age limits aside, public health officials say not enough of the 50-and-older crowd get potentially life-saving checks. The cancer society’s new campaign aims for a screening rate of 80 percent, up from two-thirds, by 2018.
“If you’re polyp-free at 70, we have so dramatically reduced your likelihood of a death from colon cancer, you probably don’t need to ever think about it again,” Wender said.
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