Harvard Men's Health Watch

When to stop colorectal screening

Q. I'm 76 and I have had three normal colonoscopies for routine colorectal cancer screening. Am I done now?

A. Recommendations for screening tests like colonoscopy usually state an age to start being screened, but when to stop is more of a gray area. Whether to continue screening depends on your overall health and how likely it is that you are still at risk for the disease. Remember, screening tests are performed to look for a problem years before it would likely appear. Colonoscopy, for example, detects the precancerous polyps that appear many years before the polyps turn into cancer.

The risk of colon cancer increases over time, but if no polyps were found on previous colonoscopies, the chance of new colon polyps is markedly lower. On the other hand, a family history of colon cancer increases your risk.

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