Colorectal Cancer Screenings Should Start at Age 45, According to the American Cancer Society

Colorectal Cancer Screenings Should Start at Age 45, According to the American Cancer Society

March 11, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Jennifer Turkish, M.D.

Cancer of the colon and rectum is the second deadliest cancer among U.S. adults – and recently there has been a sharp rise in colorectal cancer cases among adults under 55. The result? The American Cancer Society (ACS) has issued new guidelines for colorectal cancer screening, lowering the recommended age to begin screenings from 50 to 45 years old.

This month, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, is an important time to learn about screening for the disease. The new ACS recommended age of 45 to begin screening is for those who have an average risk for colorectal cancer. For those with a high risk, they might consider receiving screening even earlier, as recommended by their health care provider. People at high risk include those with a personal history of colorectal cancer, having noncancerous polyps (growths), inflammatory bowel disease or a strong family history of colorectal cancer.

Types of Colorectal Cancer Screenings

Several tests may be used to screen for colorectal cancer. They can be divided into two broad categories; tests that look for signs of cancer in your stool, and 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 screening test has different pros and cons. You should ask your provider for guidance on choosing the right one for you.

Getting Screened on Time

Screening can find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it may be easier to treat. Even better, screening may prevent the cancer from developing by finding and removing polyps.

If you’re age 45 or older, or if you’re younger but in a high-risk group, talk with your health care provider about getting screened for colorectal cancer. Also, check with your health insurance plan about your coverage for the screening. That is especially important if you haven’t turned 50 yet.

*Not all organizations have updated their guidelines. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force still recommends the age of 50 for beginning screenings.

Next Steps & Resources


  • American Cancer Society

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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