Routine checkups don't directly reduce a patient's risk of dying from cancer or heart disease, but that doesn't mean that they aren't beneficial, concluded a study published in the British Medical Journal.
According to the review of 14 previous studies involving nearly 183,000 patients treated between 1947 and 2010, checkups did result in greater numbers of overall diagnoses and an increase in treatment for high blood pressure. However, these routine visits were not linked to any reduction in overall mortality or death risk from the diseases studied, HealthDay News reported.
Lead author Lasse Krogsboll, a doctoral candidate in the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, said, "We are not saying that early treatment of manifest disease or treatment of risk factors identified as a part of good doctoring is not a good idea." He cited examples of treating moderately or severely elevated blood as beneficial.
Krogsboll added, "We cannot take it for granted that more diagnoses and more treatment is always better. Our results do not tell us what the optimal prevention strategy is, but they certainly do not support the idea of regular, systematic health checkups, in addition to normal clinical practice."
In an accompanying editorial, Domhnall MacAuley, the London-based clinical primary care editor for BMJ, wrote that one of the potential downsides of routine screening was that those who seek it could disproportionately include the "worried well," leading to an uptick in overdiagnosis and unnecessary care. As a result, he suggested that "targeted" checkups may be a better way to focus on at-risk patients who could benefit from routine monitoring.