Colorectal cancer screenings should start at age 45, new guidelines say

This undated microscope image provided by the NCI Center for Cancer Research shows human colon cancer cells with the cell nuclei stained red

The American Cancer Society now says colorectal cancer screening should start at age 45, not 50.

Most of the nation's 140,000 annual cases and 50,000 deaths from colon and rectal cancer still occur among people over age 55.

Of course, the implications of increasing colorectal cancer incidence among young people go beyond the need for adjusted screening recommendations.

"Someone born in 1990 has twice the chance of developing colorectal cancer than someone born in 1950", Wolf said.

The organization says colorectal cancer "is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer among adults in the United States", but that early detection lowers the risk of death.

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For colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society didn't push one screening option over another but listed various options: High-sensitivity stool tests, created to detect blood in feces, which need to be administered every year; a DNA stool test, sold under the brand name Cologuard, every three years; a colonoscopy, every 10 years; or a virtual colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy, every five years.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with almost 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But she also pointed out that colorectal cancer rates are rising rapidly in adults younger than 45 and urged people to seek medical attention promptly if they experience "persistent and concerning gastrointestinal symptoms". But the share of cases involving younger adults has risen to 29% for rectal cancer and 17% for colon cancer, a recent study showed.

"Think of it this way", Dwyer says, "if screening started at age 20, you'd have maximum benefit but also a huge burden". That produced a result that showed the lifesaving potential of earlier screening, the group said. Clinical trials are the "gold standard" for proving that - and most trials of screening have not included people younger than 50.

"While we commend the ACS for its forward thinking ... we do not believe this will necessarily be a big driver of Cologuard volume upside for Exact Sciences in the near term", William Blair analyst Brian Weinstein said.

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"The choice should be based on what tests are available, and the patient's personal preferences", Wolf said.

"Fight Colorectal Cancer commends the American Cancer Society's leadership announcing a significant change in the colorectal cancer screening guidelines for average-risk patients from 50 years of age to 45". Dr. Ahnen joined the National Colorectal Cancer Round Table (NCCRT) in 2009, has co-chaired the Family History Task Force since 2012 and joined the NCCRT Steering Committee in November of 2014. "Colorectal cancer is really reaching into younger and younger populations". "The best colorectal screening test is the one that gets done".

A separate report released last week by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research highlighted strong evidence that being physically active and eating whole grains and foods high in fiber, along with other healthy habits, can decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.

"Be aware screening is important, screening can save their lives, screening can actually prevent colorectal cancer", said Church.

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