Colon and rectal cancer screenings should start at 45, not 50

According to new guidelines released on Wednesday most U.S. adults should begin getting screened for colon cancer when they turn 45

That panel's recommendations drive what screening is covered by insurance under the Affordable Care Act, although 20 states have laws that link coverage to the cancer society guidelines.

ACS lowered the age after looking closely at evidence that new cases of colorectal cancer are occurring at an increasing rate among younger adults.

Dr. Cedrek McFadden is a physician with GHS.

Lari Johnston suspects she may not be alive today if she'd had her first colon cancer screening at age 50.

This spike has led the American Cancer Society to recommend that people start getting screened for colorectal cancer, a term often used to describe colon and rectal cancers, at age 45 instead of 50, the agency announced Wednesday.

"The rationale for screening at an earlier age is that the incidence of colorectal cancer is higher [than in the past]... so there are more cancers to be found by screening", he wrote in an email.

Colorectal cancer incidence nationally has steadily declined over the past two decades in people over 55 because of screening that results in the removal of polyps and changes in exposure to risk factors, Dwyer said. Routine screenings can also help doctors find colon cancer early when it is easier to treat.

"You know the screening is not a fun process, everyone knows that", said Smith.

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Chang, of MD Anderson, said he thought that 45 years old "makes sense" for the start of screening.

Past year colorectal cancer claimed more than 50,000 lives in the United States.

There are other screening options but colonoscopy remains the best screening options for the cancer.

The recommendation is a qualified one with the ACS previous recommendation from 2008 that such screening begin at 50 remaining a strong recommendation as results verifying the effectiveness of screening those between 45 to 50 is limited. But overall, getting screened using any of these tests reduces mortality rates from colon and rectal cancers when compared with not getting screened.

Early detection will save lives and that is why Atlantic Diagnostic Laboratories (ADL), launched PolypDx™, a non-invasive urine-based diagnostic test for detection of adenomatous polyps, the precursor to colorectal cancer.

Another option is a multi-target stool DNA test, which is done every three years and also involves collecting a sample at home and sending it in. Every five years, a person could do a computed tomography colonography test (a scan like a CAT scan) or a flexible sigmoidoscopy scan (essentially a tube with a light and camera on it).

For now, the US Preventative Services Task Force recommendations still strongly recommend that people begin screening at age 50.

The underlying cause of the spike in cases among younger people is unknown but O'Neil says obesity and diet are linked to colon cancer. He believes, eventually, the recommended age will be even younger.

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