According to American doctors, there is no upper age limit to the effectiveness of colon cancer screening.Colorectal cancer screening tests are valuable for detecting bowel cancer and polyps before any symptoms develop. In the US, it's recommended that screening - either with a faecal occult blood test (FOBT), sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy - should start at age 50 and earlier in those with a family history of colon cancer.
But it has not been clear at what age the screening should stop. Researchers at the Texas Clinic Foundation have analysed records from 900 colonoscopies. Just over half were screens and the rest were to evaluate symptoms. More than a third were performed on patients in their fifties, 20 per cent on those in their sixties and the rest on the over seventies.
The prevalence of overall bowel cancer peaked at 70 - but the number of cases of certain forms of cancer and numerous polyps continued to rise with age. The researchers conclude that screening should continue throughout life. But many patients seem unaware that they are eligible for a free screen under Medicare arrangements - a telephone poll revealed that 16 per cent did not know if the FOBT was covered, and a further 10 per cent thought it was not covered.