US Task Force Says Colon Cancer Screenings Should Begin At 45, Not 50

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has lowered the recommended age for people to begin getting screened for colorectal cancer. The task force says that asymptomatic people who do not have a history of colon or rectal polyps or a family history of colorectal cancer should get screened when they turn 45.

The task force cited an alarming rise in cases of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50. The number of cases in adults between the ages of 40 and 49 increased by almost 15% from 2000-2002 to 2014-2016.

"It's a major area of concern, and investigation theories abound," Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, a gastroenterologist with New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN. "To some extent, it may be driven in part by obesity, but there are plenty of people younger than 50, who are not obese, who are developing colorectal cancer, without any discernible risk factors."

While health experts have been unable to pinpoint a cause for the increase, they hope that people will get screened earlier.

"The prognosis is so much better if you catch it at an earlier stage, for what is such a frightening trend," Dr. Kimmie Ng, the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told ABC News. "Having these new guidelines is so important -- they support and validate the alarming epidemiologic trends we've been seeing. I think this should be a call to action."

Now that the task force has given an official recommendation on getting tested, the procedures should be covered by most private insurance plans, with no copay for 45- to 75-year-olds.

Photo: Getty Images

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