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Are Too Many Older People Screened for Cancer?
Date:12/12/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Many older Americans get screened for colon, breast, prostate and cervical cancer even though guidelines recommend against routinely screening the elderly, a new study finds.

As the population of the United States continues to age, balancing good health care with costs will be a continuing battle, experts say. "In an era of escalating health care utilization and expenditures in the United States, identifying areas for cost containment while concurrently improving quality of care in our health care system is increasingly paramount," said lead researcher Keith Bellizzi, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

"Perhaps this area of health care warrants further attention," Bellizzi added.

Currently, nearly 37 million people in the United States are 65 and older, and that number will probably double by 2030. Historically, older adults have been excluded from cancer clinical trials, so what is known about the effectiveness of screening in seniors is limited, he said.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against routine screening for breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer at age 75 and beyond, and advises against cervical cancer testing after 65, according to the study.

But many older adults today live longer, healthier lives than earlier generations, so it is likely that continued screening for certain segments of the older adult population is warranted, he said.

"At the same time, there are segments of the older adult population with limited life expectancy, poor health status and concommitant health conditions that would likely not benefit from screening. The challenge is, how do we make this determination?" Bellizzi said.

To asses the prevalence of screening among the elderly, Bellizzi's team collected data on almost 50,000 men and wome
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