Continuing cancer screening later in life: attitudes and intentions among older adults in England

Christian von Wagner, Ana Macedo, Christine Campbell, Alice E Simon, Jane Wardle, Victoria Hammersley, David Weller, Jo Waller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: the rise in life expectancy, together with age-related increase in the incidence of most cancers, has led to mounting interest in cancer screening in older people. In England, routine invitations stop and an ‘opt-in’ (individual request) process is available from ages 71 to 76 years for breast and colorectal screening respectively. Little is known about public attitudes towards age-stoppage policy.

Objective: this study examined public attitudes to current stoppage policy, information preferences and intentions to request screening beyond the age of routine invitations.

Sample: participants (n = 927; age 60–74 years) were recruited as part of a TNS Research International survey and took part in home-based, computer-assisted interviews.

Methods: measures included: (i) attitudes towards current stoppage policy, (ii) preference for communications about screening after the end of the routine invitation period and (iii) intention to opt-in.

Results: the majority of respondents (78%) did not agree with age-based stoppage policies. Most (83%) wanted a strong recommendation to opt-in after this age, although the number who thought they would follow such a recommendation was much lower (27%). A majority of participants (54%) thought information on screening at older ages should come from their general practitioner (GP).

Conclusion: this survey indicates that older people in England wish to continue to be actively invited for cancer screening, although only a minority think that they would ultimately take up the offer. Primary care may play a role in negotiating a shared decision that is based on individual circumstances.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-5
Number of pages6
JournalAge and Ageing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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