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December 2023

Age 45 or Older? Schedule Your Colorectal Cancer Screening

Cancer of the colon and rectum is the second deadliest cancer among U.S. adults. In recent decades, there has been a sharp rise in colorectal cancer cases among adults younger than age 50. That’s why the current American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines for colorectal cancer screening recommend:

  • For people at average risk for colorectal cancer: Screening should start at age 45. In previous guidelines, the starting age was 50.

  • For people at high risk for colorectal cancer: Screening may need to start sooner, as recommended by your healthcare provider. Factors that increase your risk include:

    • A personal history of colorectal cancer, certain polyps (noncancerous growths that may turn into cancer over time), or inflammatory bowel disease

    • A strong family history of colorectal cancer

Earlier screening can save lives

Screening can find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it may be easier to treat. Even better, screening may prevent the cancer from developing. How? It gives your provider a chance to find and remove polyps. After reviewing research on colorectal cancer screening, experts found that lowering the starting age to 45 will save additional lives.

Several test options are available

The ACS guidelines say that several tests may be used to screen for colorectal cancer. They can be divided into two broad categories:

  1. Tests that look for signs of cancer in your stool. Performed every one to three years.

  2. Visual exams of your colon and rectum using a viewing scope (colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy) or CT scan (virtual colonoscopy). Performed every five to 10 years.

If you’re age 45 or older, or if you’re younger but in a high-risk group, talk with your healthcare provider about getting screened for colorectal cancer. Also, check with your health insurance plan about your coverage for the screening.

Each screening test has different pros and cons. Ask your provider for guidance on choosing the right one for you. And don’t put off this crucial conversation. When it comes to finding colorectal cancer, sooner is much better than later.





Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
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