New research shows that colon cancer may be more of a problem for older adults than previously thought. But doctors warn that the answer is not as easy as simply extending the recommended screening age.

Colon cancer is a problem thought to occur most often in the first seven decades of life. That’s why current national guidelines recommend colorectal cancer screenings stop at age 75.

But new research is now calling that into question, demonstrating that the cancer decline may be temporary. The study shows that in 81,946 men over the age of 80 in the Veterans Affairs system who had a colonoscopy in the previous 15 years, more than 11 percent had colorectal cancer. The greatest percentage was in men over the age of 90.

Those findings would suggest that the solution is to extend the screening age. But it’s not that simple, says David Johnson, MD, Chief of Gastroenterology and Professor of Internal Medicine at EVMS, who has helped craft several national screening guidelines regarding colorectal screening.

Screening is appropriate in older individuals, he says, but only when age-related risks are also considered.

“Clearly the risks of colonoscopy and anesthesia increase with age, and the decision to screen should involve an assessment of the best testing options for the specific patient,” says Dr. Johnson, as quoted in a story on the new research in Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News.

The bottom line for seniors is to check with your doctor before a colonoscopy.