Get Screened for Colon Cancer Earlier (Age 45)

May 18, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Rosario Ligresti, M.D. contributes to topics such as Cancer Care.

When the world lost Chadwick Boseman at age 43 to colon cancer, for many people, it brought to light the importance of colorectal cancer screening. In May 2021, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force shed even more light on this critical screening—lowering the recommended age to start colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45.

Who Should Be Screened?

The task force says all adults ages 45 to 75 should be screen screened for colorectal cancer.

This recommendation is intended for:

  • Asymptomatic people
  • People with average risk of colorectal cancer
  • People with no previous diagnosis of colorectal cancer
  • People with no history of colon or rectal polyps
  • People without a personal or family history of genetic disorders that put them at higher risk

For adult ages 76 to 85 years, the task force recommends screening at the discretion of a doctor based on a person’s health and previous screening history.

Why Screen Sooner?

According to research from the American Cancer Society, the rate at which people 65 and older are diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the U.S. is dropping. But in younger age groups, that rate is rising. In 2020, 12 percent of colorectal cancer cases were diagnosed in people under age 50. Since the 90s, rates have been increasing in adults ages 40 to 54.

“We don’t know exactly why we’re seeing a trend of colorectal cancer in younger patients. But by proper screening, we can effectively reduce the number of colorectal cancer cases and deaths in a younger population of patients,” says Rosario Ligresti, MD, FASGE, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Hackensack University Medical Center. “If polyps are found through early screening, they can be removed before they develop into cancer.”

Types of Colorectal Cancer Screening

Several tests may be used to screen for colorectal cancer. The tests are generally divided into two categories:

  1. Tests that look for signs of cancer in your stool
  2. Visual exams of your colon and rectum using a viewing scope (colonoscopy) or CT scan (virtual colonoscopy)

Stool testing is typically done annually to every three years and visual exams every five to 10 years.

“Each type of screening has different benefits and cons,” says Dr. Ligresti. “Your doctor can help you choose the right one for you—and tell you how often it should be repeated. Overall, the best screening test is the one that actually gets done!”

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