Many older adults are continuing cancer screenings beyond the recommended upper age limits, which range from age 65–75 years depending on the type of cancer screening, researchers reported in JAMA Network Open.

In a cross-sectional study, researchers conducted a phone survey of 176,348 older adults in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They found that overall, 59.3% of men and 56.2% of women were overscreened for colorectal cancer, 45.8% of women for cervical cancer, and 74.1% of women for breast cancer. The overscreening rates were higher in people who lived in metropolitan areas and who had a regular source of health care, were in good health, had higher levels of education, and were married or living as married.

The age limits are in place because that’s when the risks and harms of screening typically begin to outweigh the benefits. Some of the negatives include false-positive findings, unnecessary follow-up procedures, or complications from invasive screening tests like colonoscopies.

“Overscreening could be associated with healthcare access and patient-clinician relationships,” the researchers theorized from their findings. “Additional research on why overscreening persists and how to reduce overscreening is needed to minimize risks associated with cancer screening among older adults.”