Get screened earlier for colon cancer, at 45, not 50, new federal health guidelines urge
‘Forty-five is the new 50,’ one expert says of the new recommendation, which comes as colorectal cancer is increasing among younger adults and after the death of Chadwick Boseman.
With colon cancer increasingly being seen among younger adults and the death of actor Chadwick Boseman from the disease, new federal health guidelines are now urging people to start getting screened at 45 rather than waiting until they’re 50.
The new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force for earlier screening comes as colorectal cancer has become one of the nation’s leading cancer killers. About 50,000 Americans a year die from it even though it’s one of the most preventable of all cancers.
It’s most common among older adults. That’s why the task force has long recommended that people 50 to 75 years old get screened.
But the rate of new cases before age 50 has been rising since the early 2000s. So the new guidelines say adults at average risk should be screened from ages 45 to 75.
The overall numbers of cases and deaths have inched down in recent years, thanks in part to screening tests that can spot tumors early — or even prevent them by removing precancerous growths.
The new recommendation, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, means that most insurance plans would have to cover the checks with no co-payment required.
The change brings the task force in line with the American Cancer Society, which lowered its recommended screening age to 45 in 2018.
The new advice shows “45 is the new 50 for this important cancer-prevention screening intervention,” Dr. Kimmie Ng of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, who wasn’t involved in the task force deliberations, wrote in JAMA.
How often people need to get checked depends on the type of screening they choose. There are a variety of options, including colonoscopies that might need to be done no more than every 10 years, depending on what’s seen, or less-invasive, yearly stool-based tests.
Despite the concerns over colon cancer, about 25% of Americans between 50 and 75 years old have never been screened for the disease.