The American Cancer Society is now recommending Americans at average risk for colorectal cancer begin colorectal cancer screenings at age 45 rather than age 50. Through extensive analysis and research, the American Cancer Society has come to the conclusion that lowering the starting age for screenings to 45 would save numerous lives.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer, and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. In 2018, the American Cancer Society anticipates over 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and over 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer. An estimated 50,000 people will die this year from colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer begins with abnormal cells developing into polyps which can become cancerous. The process of polyps becoming cancerous can take several years, and regular screenings are used to find and remove most polyps before they become cancerous. Colorectal cancer is usually diagnosed in patients over the age of 65, but advances in detection and prevention during screenings has allowed that number of patients diagnosed with cancer to decline steadily in the last decade.
Unfortunately, the outlook for younger patients has been less optimistic. Patients below the age of 50 have seen a rapid, 51 percent increase in their colorectal cancer rates, with a death rate also on the rise. Risk factors of colorectal cancer for young adults are substantially higher than they have been for previous generations at the same age.
While the age group 50-to-54 is still more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer than 45-to-49, the American Cancer Society believes their actual rates of colorectal cancer to be incredibly close if not identical. Much of this increase over 50 can be attributed to the current date people begin colorectal screenings, as that is their first opportunity to be diagnosed with cancer they contracted at a younger age.
Not every gastroenterological society agrees with the American Cancer Society’s new recommendations. However, the American Cancer Society feels it is necessary to start screening at a younger age if we hope to curb rising cancer rates in young adults.