Study: Colon cancer screening cost-effective for elderly patients

Colorectal cancer (CRC) screening is cost-effective and should be recommended for adults over the age of 75 who haven't been screened previously, according to new research published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for individuals between the age of 50 and 75, but doesn't recommend screening for anyone over 75 who has already been screened.

What's more, research published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine identified colon cancer screening for elderly patients as one of 26 tests and procedures determined to have little or no clinical benefit to patients.

"It is a common misconception that guidelines recommend against colorectal cancer screening in all individuals aged over 75," lead author Frank van Hees, of Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said, according to a HealthDay News article.

Using data from observational and experimental studies, the authors used statistical analysis to determine the risks of colon cancer for simulated groups of persons ranging in age from 76 to 90; they also wanted to project the results for various types of screening tests, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and fecal immunochemical testing.

They found that CRC screening was cost-effective for persons without major health issues up to age 86.

"This study has important implications regarding unscreened patients over age 75 and provides compelling evidence that these patients would likely benefit from colorectal cancer screening, preferably colonoscopy, and as close to age 75 as possible," Amanda Clark, M.D., of the department of internal medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham told Medscape Medical News. Clark co-authored an editorial accompanying the study that also was published in Annals.

"Colorectal cancer screening should be considered in every person over age 75 without fatal illness who has not had prior screening," she said.

To learn more:
- see the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine
- take a look at the accompanying commentary
- read the article in HealthDay
- see the article in Medscape Medical News