Start screenings for colorectal cancer at age 45, panel advises

New science about colorectal cancer in younger people sparked the new guidelines, a task force member said

A panel of national experts on Tuesday advised earlier screenings for colorectal cancer, (colon cancer) starting at age 45 instead of 50.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says people aged 45 to 75 should undergo screenings as a preventative measure, with those aged 50 to 75 strongly recommended to get screened.

For adults over 75, the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis, per the panel.

A panel of national experts on Tuesday advised earlier screenings for colon cancer, starting at age 45. (iStock)

A panel of national experts on Tuesday advised earlier screenings for colon cancer, starting at age 45. (iStock)

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The guidance goes for all adults, including those who are symptom-free with no family or personal history of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this cancer is common among men and women. "Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States," the agency says. 

Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form and become cancerous over time. Screening can help find these polyps early and remove them before cancer sets in.

“Unfortunately, not enough people in the U.S. receive this effective preventive service that has been proven to save lives,” Dr. Alex Krist, chair of the task force, said in a release.  “We hope that this recommendation to screen people ages 45 to 75 for colorectal cancer will encourage more screening and reduce people's risk of dying from this disease.” 

Colon cancer screening can lower risk of death from the disease. (iStock)

Colon cancer screening can lower risk of death from the disease. (iStock)

The panel estimated that 25% of those aged 50 to 75 were never screened and added that Black adults are at a disproportionate risk of prevalence and death from colorectal cancer.

CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING ABOUT COLON CANCER 

Dr. Michael Barry, member of the task force, elaborated on the new guidance.

“New science about colorectal cancer in younger people has enabled us to expand our recommendation to screen all adults starting at age 45, especially Black adults who are more likely to die from this disease,” Barry said in the release. “Screening earlier will help prevent more people from dying from colorectal cancer.” 

The guidance includes two screening tests: direct visualization and stool-based. Clinicians were urged to talk to patients about advantages and disadvantages of each and choose the right test on an individual basis.

Find more information about the new guidelines here.

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