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News2013January › Cancer screening does more harm than good in the over-75s › January 2013

Cancer screening does more harm than good in the over-75s

People who are 75 years and older shouldn't bother with cancer screening, researchers say this week

People who are 75 years and older shouldn't bother with cancer screening, researchers say this week. They're more likely to outlive any cancer and the risks from screening-such as a false positive, where a cancer that isn't there is nonetheless detected-outweigh the benefits.
In particular, breast and colorectal cancer screening are the main ones to avoid for the over-75s or those not expecting to live beyond the next 10 years, say researchers from the University of California in San Francisco.
They looked at the outcomes of nine screening trials, which involved up to 150,000 people aged from 50 years and older. Overall, it takes around three years of screening 5,000 people to prevent just one breast cancer death, and more than 10 years screening to prevent one death per 1,000 women screened.
And yet one in 10 people screened will have a 'false-positive' reading, which will result in needless worry and possibly initiate a series of further tests and treatment.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2013; 346: e8441).

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