U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45
Today, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released a draft recommendation that colorectal cancer screening should begin at age 45. The recommendation to screen applies to all adults 45-75 years old without symptoms, a personal history of colorectal polyps or a personal or family history of genetic disorders that increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
"Unfortunately, not enough people in the U.S. receive this effective preventive service that has been proven to save lives," said Task Force chair Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H., who is also a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, director of community engaged research at the VCU C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research and associate professor of family medicine and population health in the VCU School of Medicine. "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."
The new recommendation brings the Task Force more in line with the American Cancer Society, who revised their colorectal cancer screening guidelines in 2018 to begin screening at age 45. Both recommend visual or stool-based testing. Visual tests such as colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies allow doctors to visually examine the colon. Stool-based tests look for traces of blood in the stool and require visual testing to confirm suspicious findings.
“We are seeing a rise in colorectal cancer among younger adults, and we also know that African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed early and die from colorectal cancer than any other group,” says Jaime Bohl, M.D., chair of the Division of Colorectal Surgery at VCU Health. “While we are still working to understand these disturbing trends, we do know that screening for colorectal cancer saves lives. Not only can we detect cancer early with screening, we can also remove colon polyps and prevent it from occurring.”
For adults 76 to 85, the Task Force continues to recommend that the decision to screen be based on professional judgment and patient preferences. Those at increased risk should talk to their doctor about beginning screening early based on individual risk factors.
The Task Force’s draft recommendation statement and draft evidence review have been posted for public comment on their website.
More information about screening for colorectal cancer can be found on VCU Massey Cancer Center’s website.