Yearly Health Checkups May Not Be Very Beneficial, Study Suggests

A yearly trip to your doctor may soothe your peace of mind but may not lower your chance of dying from a serious illness like cancer or heart disease, TIME reported Oct. 19.

That was the conclusion of a recent analysis of 14 long-term experiments by Danish researchers. Of those studies, just one reported that annual health checkups increased diagnoses of cancer and heart disease, and even this report said that checkups did not affect overall mortality from these diseases.

“From the evidence we’ve seen, inviting patients to general health checks is unlikely to be beneficial,” say lead researcher Lasse Krogsboll of The Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“One reason for this might be that doctors identify additional problems and take action when they see patients for other reasons,” noted Krogsboll. Another may be that people who visit the doctor more regularly are usually healthier than those who don’t, Stephanie Thompson, M.D., and Marcello Tonelli, M.D., from the the University of Alberta in Canada write in an editorial accompanying the study. Thus, “general health checks are least likely to reach those who could benefit the most.”

Instead of having a general catch-all health checkup, encourage your doctor to make your visit more directed based on your personal and family health history. For instance, if you have a history of high blood pressure, make that the focus of your visit; if diabetes runs in the family, make sure to focus on your blood sugar and other risk factors.

“When contemplating screening, practitioners should focus on tests that are targeted to the patient’s age, sex, and specific risk factors,” Thompson and Tonelli say.

(Photo © a.drian via Flickr)

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