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Home E-Weekly October 4, 2016

How Old Is Too Old for Colonoscopy?

Published: October 3, 2016

Public health authorities recommend routine colorectal cancer screenings between the ages of 50 and 75, but Medicare's colonoscopy reimbursement has no upper age limit. Is there any reason to continue scoping after 75?

Maybe not, say researchers, who speculate that the procedure delivers diminishing returns after the three-quarters-of-a-century mark. For a study published online by the Annals of Internal Medicine, they reviewed a random sample of more than 1.3 million patients in their 70s who underwent colonoscopies between 2004 and 2012.

While colonoscopies performed on patients aged 70 to 74 years reduced the 8-year risk of colorectal cancer from about 2.6% to 2.2%, the results were much slimmer among the 75-to-79 group, reducing incidence from 3% to 2.8%.

The benefits of colonoscopy are well-known, they concluded, but it's still an invasive, expensive and potentially risky procedure, and perhaps unnecessary given the other screening methods available.

David Bernard

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