A Case for Delaying Cancer Screenings

Colorectal cancer virtual colonoscopies can begin later according to new study

(RxWiki News) As a general rule, both men and women are urged to get their first colon cancer screening at age 50. These screening guidelines and technology may be changing.

A new study has concluded that screening for both men and women can be delayed when using imaging technology.

Men can have their first virtual colonoscopy between the ages of 55 and 60, and women can wait until they are 60.

The two biggest risk factors for advanced colorectal cancer are age and being male.

"Determine with your doctor how and when to begin colorectal cancer screenings."

"Virtual colonoscopies" — or computed tomographic colonography (CTC) — use imaging technology to find signs of colorectal cancer. These are non-invasive tests that are about as accurate as traditional colonoscopies.

Traditional colonoscopies involve colon-emptying preparation, sedation and the threading of a tube throughout the colon.

For this new study, Cesare Hassan, MD, of the Nuovo Regina Margherita Hospital in Rome, Italy, and peers studied 7,620 patients who had their first virtual colonoscopy from 2004 to 2011.

The researchers found that being older and male were factors linked to more advanced disease.

Surprisingly, a person’s body mass index (BMI) and family history of colorectal cancer were not associated with advanced disease.

"We showed that the possibility for average-risk individuals to have clinically meaningful polyps detected by virtual colonoscopy is strictly associated with two main variables, namely age and sex," Dr. Hassan said in a press release.

The study authors concluded, “These findings could be useful in stratifying patients who undergo CTC screening.”

This research was published June 10 in Cancer, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.

Two of the authors, Dr. Kim and Dr. Pickhardt, disclosed they had received consultancy fees from businesses involved in virtual colonoscopy  and are co-founders of VirtuoCTC, a company that provides virtual colonoscopy training and other consulting services.

Review Date: 
June 7, 2013