Screenings for colon cancer should now start at 45, task force says

Colorectal cancer screenings should now start at age 45 instead of 50, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said in updated guidance released May 18. 

Overall, all adults aged 45 to 75 should be screened for the disease, according to the recommendations, which applies to all adults, regardless of symptoms, personal or family history. 

The USPSTF classified the recommendation to start screening earlier as Grade B, meaning there is "high certainty that the net benefit is moderate or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial." 

"Far too many people in the U.S. are not receiving this lifesaving preventive service," said Michael Barry, MD, vice chair of the task force. "We hope that this new recommendation to screen people ages 45 to 49, coupled with our long-standing recommendation to screen people 50 to 75, will prevent more people from dying from colorectal cancer." 

Additionally, deciding whether to screen older adults aged 76 to 85 should be made on an individual basis, the recommendations say. 

"The American Cancer Society made this recommendation in 2018 but many other guidelines still said to start at age 50, which caused confusion and some insurance companies would not cover the screening until age 50," said Heather Hampel, genetic counselor and associate director of the human genetics division at Ohio State University in Columbus. "This is why it is very important that the USPSTF has now confirmed that colorectal cancer screening should begin at age 45," Ms. Hampel told Becker's, adding that under the task force's new recommendations, screenings should be covered for all insured Americans who are at least 45.

"Since the Affordable Care Act mandates that insurance companies cover preventative services with a Grade B or higher recommendation from the USPSTF with no copay, this screening should now be covered," she said. 

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with nearly 53,000 people estimated to die of the disease in 2021, according to the American Cancer Society. 

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