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?

Answer 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 may not need to 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 one or a combination of screening strategies:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Fecal occult blood testing (FOBT)
  • Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT)
  • Stool DNA testing
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • Computed tomography colonography (virtual 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.

Dec. 03, 2019