American Cancer Society Lowers Screening Age to 45

Since 1994, colon cancer has been on the rise in individuals younger than 50. Still, the recommended age to begin screening was 50 years old. (Of course, depending on family history, younger individuals have been screened earlier.)

Today, however, marks a significant day in the fight against colon cancer as the American Cancer Society has officially lowered the recommended screening age to 45 years old. Research that has been gathered since 1994 has finally been conclusive enough to warrant such a change and the hope is that by starting screenings at 45, more individuals can catch the disease in its early stages.

“People born in the 80s and 90s are at double the risk for developing cancer of the colon and four times the risk for developing cancer of the rectum compared to people born decades earlier like the 40s and 50s,” says Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer, American Cancer Society. Dr. Wender explains that colon cancer is even developing in people in their teens, which at one time was extremely rare.

This then begs the question: Should screenings begin even earlier than 45? Well, the American Cancer Society doesn’t see evidence that supports that just yet. “If you have a family history or if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you’re at a higher risk and need to start earlier. These guidelines don’t apply to you. But for 80 percent of us—we’re at average risk and the screening age is now 45.”

Screenings, however, don’t necessarily mean a full colonoscopy. Other screening tests are offered, including:

The American Cancer Society stresses the importance of screenings at regular intervals. The guidelines are as follows:

  • Colonoscopy: every 10 years
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): every year
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: every five years
  • Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT): every year
  • Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA): every three years
  • Virtual colonoscopy: every five years

The best way to know when to begin colon cancer screenings and at what intervals is to speak with your healthcare provider directly. Here at Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey (GANJ), we offer 22 locations in five counties across northern New Jersey. Our doctors are trained in the latest and most advanced screenings options and treatments for colon cancer and other gastrointestinal issues.

For more information about colon cancer screenings or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.