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Half of Americans age 50 and older have never had a colonoscopy

Only half of all Americans age 50 and over have had a colonoscopy, one of several common screening tests for colon cancer, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that all people age 50 and over be screened for colon cancer—the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

An AHRQ survey reports the following about screening colonoscopy among Americans age 50 and older:

  • Nearly 67 percent of Hispanics age 50 and older reported that they have never had a screening colonoscopy. This compares with 47.1 percent of whites and 55.8 percent of blacks.
  • More than three-fourths (77 percent) of uninsured adults between the ages of 50 and 64 reported that they have never had a screening colonoscopy compared with people with private insurance (54.1 percent) or people covered by Medicaid and other public coverage (61 percent).
  • Slightly more than half of people age 65 and older who had Medicare plus some other public insurance reported never having had a screening colonoscopy. Only 45 percent of people in the same age group who only had Medicare coverage and 34.6 percent of people who had Medicare plus some private insurance reported never having had a screening colonoscopy.

The data in this report are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to Screening Colonoscopy Among the U.S. Noninstitutionalized Adult Population Age 50 and Older, 2005, MEPS Statistical Brief 188, at

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