30 sept 2008--There has been a substantial increase in the number of colorectal cancer screening tests conducted in older Americans, a new study shows. "Most cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in older adults," Dr. Mary C. White, of the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and colleagues note in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society. "Two thirds of new cases of colorectal cancer involve people aged 65 or older and one quarter of diagnoses are made in those aged 80 and older." They point out that "as the number of older Americans continues to increase, greater attention is being paid to cancer screening in this population." The researchers reviewed responses from roughly 6,000 participants in the 2000 National Health Interview Survey and a similar number in the 2005 version. All of the subjects were at least 65 years old. The questionnaire included self-reports of colorectal cancer screening by colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or home fecal occult blood tests. The proportion of respondents reporting up-to-date colorectal cancer testing increased significantly from 39.5 percent in 2000 to 47.1 percent in 2005. People who had a family history of the disease and those who had some higher education made greatest use of colorectal cancer testing. The lowest use was by those who reported that they did not visit a particular physician office for usual preventive care, those with uncertain family history of the disease, and those without health insurance. A lower proportion of women than men were screened for colorectal cancer across all age groups, and the proportion screened declined with older age. "Since 2001, Medicare has provided reimbursement for use of colonoscopy as a screening tool at 10-year intervals," the investigators point out. "It appears that the change in Medicare coverage for screening colonoscopy was associated with an increase in colorectal cancer testing in older adults." SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatric Society, August 2008.