There has been a backlash in recent years against the annual checkup, the idea that each and every year you need a full head-to-toe accounting of your body's inner workings. Some tests, in particular, have fallen out of favor, such as EKGs to detect heart disease in low-risk people and the PSA blood test for prostate cancer in most men, as studies have shown they are more likely to lead to trigger unnecessary, and expensive, follow-up tests than improve health.

"But that doesn't mean that you don't need some regular tests to look for heart disease, cancer, and other common killers," says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser.

In fact, growing research shows that getting a few simple, basic heart tests and cancer screenings could save tens of thousands of lives each year—but that many people don't get them.

Here are the six heart tests and cancer screenings most people need, and how often they need them.

1. Blood Pressure Test

What it is: A reading of your systolic (upper) and diastolic (lower) blood pressure number.
Who needs it: Everyone.
How often: At least every two years and at least annually if your readings are 120 over 80 or higher. (See our Ratings and reviews of home blood pressure monitors).  

2. Cholesterol Test

What it is: A blood test to measure LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Who needs it:
Most men should start at age 35, women at 45. Those with high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease, or other risk factors such as smoking should usually begin earlier (men at 25 and women at 35).
How often:
Every three to five years depending on results. (Learn how to lower your cholesterol levels).

3. Diabetes Test

What it is: A fasting blood glucose test and an HbA1c test to measure long-term blood sugar control.
Who needs it: People who have high blood pressure or cholesterol, plus those who are overweight or obese with other risk factors such as a family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes.
How often: Every three years depending on results. (Check our Ratings and reviews of blood glucose meters).

A discussion with a doctor can tell you which heart tests and cancer screenings you need

4. Colon Cancer Test

What it is: Colonoscopy (an exam of the entire colon with a flexible scope), sigmoidoscopy (an exam of the lower third of the colon), or a stool test.
Who needs it: People ages 50 to 75.
How often: Colonoscopy every 10 years; sigmoidoscopy every five years, plus a stool test every three years; or a stool test every year. (See our guide to colon cancer screening tests.)

5. Breast Cancer Test

What it is: A mammogram.
Who needs it: Women ages 50 to 74. Women in their 40s and those 75 and older should talk with a doctor to see whether testing makes sense for them based on their risk factors.
How often: Every two years.

6. Cervical Cancer Test

What it is: A Pap smear (an analysis of cervical-tissue samples) and the human papillomavirus (HPV) test (to detect the virus, which can cause cervical cancer).
Who needs it: Women ages 21 to 65.
How often: A Pap smear every three years. Women ages 30 to 65 can go five years between tests if they have HPV testing along with their Pap smear.