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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Oct;40(7):843-53. doi: 10.1111/apt.12902. Epub 2014 Aug 14.

Minimal benefit of earlier-than-recommended repeat colonoscopy among US Medicare enrollees following a negative colonoscopy.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.



A large proportion of US Medicare beneficiaries undergo earlier-than-recommended follow-up colonoscopies after negative screening colonoscopy. Such practice entails substantial cost and added risk.


To compare the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) associated with varying follow-up colonoscopy intervals following a negative colonoscopy, and to determine whether the potential benefit of a shorter colonoscopy follow-up interval would differ by gender.


We conducted a weighted cohort study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results-Medicare linked database (1991-2006) among 932,370 Medicare enrollees who are representative of the entire US elderly population. We compared the cumulative incidence of CRC among patients who underwent follow-up colonoscopies at different intervals following a negative colonoscopy. The primary outcome was incident CRC.


The eligible study cohort (n = 480,864) included 106,924 patients who underwent ≥1 colonoscopy. Men were more likely to require polypectomy during their initial colonoscopy than women. Compared to the recommended 9-10 year follow-up colonoscopy interval, an interval of 5-6 years was associated with the largest CRC cumulative risk reduction [i.e. 0.17% (95% CI: 0.009-0.32%)]. The magnitude of risk reduction associated with shorter colonoscopy follow-up intervals was not significantly different between men and women.


Among elderly individuals who undergo a negative colonoscopy, the magnitude of reduction in the cumulative CRC risk afforded by earlier-than-recommended follow-up colonoscopy is quite small, and probably cannot justify the risk and cost of increased colonoscopy frequency. In addition, there are insufficient differences between men and women to warrant gender-specific recommendations.

© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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