Iron deficiency anemia (IDA), mostly due to chronic occult bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract, is a common problem in the elderly. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of IDA in the elderly and to investigate the gastrointestinal tract in elderly patients with IDA. 1,388 patients over 65 years were prospectively evaluated for IDA in our outpatient clinic. IDA was defined if decreased hemoglobin concentrations (<13 g/dl for men and <12 g/dl for women) were associated with low serum ferritin levels (<15 ng/ml in men and <9 ng/ml in women). We evaluated the gastrointestinal system of all patients with IDA by upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy regardless of fecal occult blood loss. The prevalence of anemia was found to be 25% (n = 347) in our study population, and 30.5% (n = 106) of these patients with anemia had iron deficiency. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and colonoscopy were performed in 96 patients with IDA. Fifty-eight upper gastrointestinal system lesions (55 patients, 57.3%) and 27 colonic lesions (26 patients, 27.1%) were detected. We diagnosed gastrointestinal malignancy in 15 (15.6%) elderly patients with IDA (8 colon, 1 esophageal and 6 gastric cancers). IDA is a common problem in elderly patients; consequently, before iron replacement therapy, patients should be thoroughly investigated regarding a possible association with gastrointestinal malignancy.

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