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Missed cancer screenings linked to earlier death from non-cancer causes

Adults who skip recommended cancer screenings may be more likely than those who don’t skip them to die prematurely from causes unrelated to malignancies, a US study suggests.

Researchers think skipping screenings may be a marker for more generally neglecting one’s own health.

“It was not a direct effect of missing the cancer screening that led to the increased mortality in the non-compliers,” said study co-author Dr Paul Pinsky of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Rather, we believe that non-compliance with the screening was a marker of a wider health behavioral profile of general non-compliance with or non-adherence to medical tests and treatments,” Pinsky said by email. “Non-compliance with medical procedures has also been linked, in this and other studies, to other unhealthy lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking, and to lower education.”

The researchers examined data on 64,567 adults (age 62, on average) who were told to get screened for lung and colorectal cancers. Men were also advised to get tested for prostate tumors and women were asked to get checked for ovarian cancer.

Overall, 55,065 participants, or about 85 percent, did what they were told and 6,954, or about 11 percent, didn’t.

Within 10 years, people who didn’t get any of their recommended cancer screenings were 73 percent more likely to die of causes other than the tumors targeted by the tests than participants who got all of their screenings, the study found.

Some screening was better than none at all, the researchers also found.

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