The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force—an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine—is officially recommending that the screening for colorectal cancer be lowered from 50 to 45 to reduce the risk of colon cancer deaths.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Despite strong evidence that screening for colorectal cancer is effective, about a quarter of people ages 50 to 75 have never been screened. “Unfortunately, not enough people in the U.S. receive this effective preventive service that has been proven to save lives,” says Task Force chair Alex Krist, M.D., M.P.H. “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.”
Black adults get colorectal cancer more often than other populations and are more likely to die from this disease. The Task Force recognizes this disproportionate risk and encourages clinicians to offer recommended colorectal cancer screening to their Black patients beginning at age 45.
In August, Chadwick Boseman died at the age of 43 from colorectal cancer and while his cancer was diagnosed in his late thirties, experts believe the new recommendation will save lives. 49% of young onset colorectal patients are 43-49 years old.
Fact is, while the rates for colon and rectal cancer have been declining in adults over 50, they have been rising in adults under 50 who—like Boseman—are more likely to be diagnosed in stage III or IV, when the disease is harder to treat.
“New science about colorectal cancer in younger people has enabled us to expand our recommendation to screen all adults starting at age 45, especially Black adults who are more likely to die from this disease,” says Task Force member Michael Barry, M.D.
The most common colon cancer signs and symptoms are:
Blood in your stool
Change in bathroom habits
Unexplained weight loss
Persistent cramps or low back pain