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Cancer screening said more risky than beneficial for those over 80


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The risk of a medical accident outweighs the possible benefits of screening for colorectal cancer among people over the age of 80, according to a survey by a health ministry study group.

Although such screenings can lead to early detection and treatment, older patients are more susceptible to mistakes occurring during the procedure, such as endoscopes puncturing the bowels, according to the group.

The group, headed by Tomio Nakayama, a senior researcher at the National Cancer Center in Tokyo, estimated the increase in lifespan and the occurrence rate of medical accidents based on several data, including age of the patients.

According to the survey, the number of medical accidents in the screenings among people up to 70 years old was 31.7 percent larger than the figure for people up to 65. The estimated lifespan after the screening among those up to 70 increased by 33.1 percent.

This shows the advantages and disadvantages of the screening are about the same for this age group, according to the survey.

The number of medical accidents among people up to 85 years old was 35.8 percent larger than the figure for people up to 80.

But the lifespan for the older group increased by only 4 percent after the screenings.

“The ages suitable for the screenings cannot be decided based on the results of this survey alone,” said Keisuke Fukui, an assistant professor of statistical science at Osaka Medical College and a member of the study group. “However, the disadvantages could become larger than the benefits if people who receive the screenings are older than 80.”

Central government guidelines urge people aged 40 or older to undergo colorectal cancer screenings conducted by municipal governments. But there is no upper age limit for this recommendation.

Some other countries have set upper age limits after weighing the pros and cons of the screenings. In the United States, the upper age limit is 75 years old.

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