The American Cancer Society has updated its colorectal cancer screening guidelines, most notably lowering the recommended age to begin testing to 45 instead of 50.
The recommendation for people of average risk comes in the wake of research by the American Cancer Society (ACS) that shows that colorectal cancer (which includes both colon and rectal cancers) is increasingly afflicting younger adults. Other changes in the guidelines include recommendations for screening test options.
“When we began this guideline update, we were initially focused on whether screening should begin earlier in racial subgroups with higher colorectal incidence, which some organizations already recommend,” Dr. Richard Wender, ACS chief control officer, said in a news release. “But as we saw data pointing to a persistent trend of increasing colorectal cancer incidence in younger adults … we decided to re-evaluate the age to initiate screening in all U.S. adults.”
While colorectal cases have declined steadily over the past two decades in those age 55 and older, there has been a 51 percent increase since 1994 in cases of people younger than 50, according to ACS.
In the updated guidelines, ACS outlines six types of screening options that fall into two categories: noninvasive stool-based tests and visual (structural) exams of the colon and rectum.
Consumers should be aware that health insurance plans may or may not cover a screening test for those in the new age range, and that some tests may be more affordable than others, particularly when paid out of pocket.
If considering a colorectal screening, be sure to consult your doctor. Visit the Medical Board of California website at www.mbc.ca.gov to check the status of your doctor’s license.