Skipped cancer screenings may show general noncompliance with medical tests

Adults who miss recommended cancer screenings may be more likely to neglect their health and die of other causes, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

"It was not a direct effect of missing the cancer screening that led to the increased mortality in the noncompliers," study co-author Paul Pinsky, PhD, told Reuters. "Rather, we believe that noncompliance with the screening was a marker of a wider health behavioral profile of general noncompliance with or nonadherence to medical tests and treatments."

The researchers analyzed data on 64,567 adults told to get screened for lung and colorectal cancers. Male patients were also advised to get screened for prostate tumors, and women were asked to get tested for ovarian cancer.

The study found 55,065 participants (about 85 percent) got screened, and 6,954 (11 percent) did not.

Within a decade, participants who did not get any of their recommended cancer tests were 73 percent more likely to die of causes other than the tumors targeted by the cancer tests than participants who got all the screenings.

After accounting for other factors that can speed up death, such as smoking and obesity, the researchers found compliance with cancer screenings was still significant. Participants who did not get any screenings were 46 percent more likely to die of other causes during the study, and patients who skipped some screenings were 26 percent more likely to die.

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