BACKGROUND: This systematic review identifies factors that are most consistently mentioned as either barriers to or facilitators of colorectal cancer (CRC) screening in older persons. METHODS: A systematic literature search (1995-2008) was conducted to identify studies that reported barriers to or facilitators of CRC screening uptake, compliance or adherence specifically for older persons (> or = 65 years). Information on study characteristics and barriers and facilitators related to subjects; healthcare providers; policies; and screening tests were then abstracted and analyzed. RESULTS: Eighty-three studies met the eligibility criteria. Low level of education, African American race, Hispanic ethnicity, and female gender were the most frequently reported barriers, whereas being married or living with a partner was the most frequently reported facilitator. The most cited barrier related to healthcare providers was lack of screening recommendation by a physician; having a usual source of care was a commonly reported facilitator. Lack of health insurance, and dual coverage with Medicare and Medicaid were the most frequently reported barriers, whereas Medicare's coverage of screening colonoscopy was consistently reported as a facilitator. CONCLUSIONS: Barriers to, and facilitators of, CRC screening among older persons are reported. Particular attention should be paid to modifiable factors that could become the focus of interventions aimed at increasing CRC screening participation in older persons.
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