I'm 76 years old and am wondering when it's no longer necessary to get colon cancer screening? Is there an upper age limit?
Answers from Michael F. Picco, M.D.
People older than age 75 who have been getting regular colon cancer screening since age 50 and who have had consistently negative screenings — no polyps (adenomas) or colon cancer — and are not at an increased risk of colon cancer because of family history need not continue getting routine screening. That's according to colon cancer screening guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Physicians (ACP).
The upper age limit was set after studies determined that the net benefit of screening after age 75 was small. However, the USPSTF guidelines do recommend colon cancer surveillance for people older than age 75 who have an increased risk of colon cancer, such as family history, a previously diagnosed colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
The American Cancer Society and the American College of Gastroenterology don’t specify an upper age limit beyond which colon cancer screening is no longer recommended.
The USPSTF and ACP recommend that colon cancer screening be done using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy with FOBT or colonoscopy.
Talk with your doctor about what colon cancer screening option is best for you. Together, you can decide based on your overall health when screening may no longer be of benefit.
Feb. 20, 2014
See more Expert Answers
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008;149:627.
- Zauber AG, et al. Evaluating test strategies for colorectal cancer screening: A decision analysis for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008;149:659.
- Whitlock EP, et al. Screening for colorectal cancer: A targeted, updated systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008;149:638.
- Levin B, et al. Screening and surveillance for the early detection of colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps, 2008: A joint guideline from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2008;58:130.
- Rex DK, et al. American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2008. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2009;104:1.
- Qaseem A, et al. Screening for colorectal cancer: A guidance statement from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012;156:378.