Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended adults begin screening for colorectal cancers at age 45 instead of 50.
  • The lowered age hopes to prevent more deaths, as cases in those ages 40 to 49 have risen 15 percent.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

The recommended age for people to begin screening for colon and rectal cancers has been lowered from 50 to 45, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announced.

Originally drafted in October, the task force made its recommendation official on Tuesday, publishing in the journal JAMA that adults ages 45 to 75 should be screened for colorectal cancer.

"We think by screening, starting at age 50, we prevent about 50 cases of colorectal cancer in a population of 1,000 people and avoid about 25 deaths. If we drop to age 45, we'll prevent two or three additional cases and maybe one death," Michael Barry, vice chairman of the task force, told CNN. "We thought it was appreciable enough that it was time to change the recommendation to go down to age 45." 


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In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths. While a majority of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer are ages 65 to 74, 10.5 percent of new cases appear in people under 50, and those diagnosed between ages 40 to 49 rose by about 15 percent between 2000-02 and 2014-16. 

Black Americans are at a higher risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer with 43.6 cases per 100,000 Black adults, and 37.8 cases per 100,000 white adults from 2013 to 2017. Actor Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer in August 2020 at the age of 43.

The task force’s recommendation is intended for asymptomatic adults who have an average risk of developing the disease and with no prior history of colorectal cancer, colon or rectal polyps or a family history that increases their risk. 

The official recommendation will allow for colorectal cancer screenings for adults 45 to 75 to be covered by most private insurance plans for no copay. 


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Published on May 18, 2021