Michigan Association of Health Plans

The New Age to Get Your Colorectal Cancer Screening

An independent group of experts that advises the nation on preventive medical services has lowered the recommended age for adults to begin regular screenings for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has given this recommendation for people without symptoms who are at average risk of getting colorectal cancer. Michigan Medicine encourages those with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, of inflammatory bowel disease or of a genetic disorder that makes them more likely to get colorectal cancer, such as Lynch syndrome, to get screened sooner than age 45.

In the past few decades, more people have developed colorectal cancer at a younger age.

“Over the past 30 years, the general U.S. population has moved from about 5% of all colorectal cancers under the age of 50 years to now 10.5% of colorectal cancers under this age,” says John Carethers, M.D., the John G. Searle Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, the chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Michigan Medicine and a professor of human genetics who studies the genetics and disparities of colorectal cancer.

“We see many patients under age 50 with colorectal cancer here at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center,” says Samantha Hendren, M.D., M.P.H., the surgical director of the Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Clinic at the Rogel Cancer Center. “Some of these patients come to us with more advanced cancer, which is less likely to be cured. I know that starting screening at age 45 will prevent deaths from colorectal cancer.”

Why you should get screened

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States — but it’s also one of the most preventable with regular screenings.

Usually, colorectal cancer develops from abnormal growths, known as polyps, in the colon or rectum. These can be detected and removed during a colonoscopy, during which a physician examines your bowel with a camera attached to the end of a long, flexible tube. (The majority of polyps found during a colonoscopy are not cancerous, but it’s best to get rid of them before they develop into cancer.)

“The fact that you can do a one-day test every 10 years and improve your odds of never getting colon cancer,” says John Krauss, M.D., the medical director of the Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Clinic at the Rogel Cancer Center, “that’s something you should do.”

In addition to colonoscopies, several other colorectal cancer screenings are available, including at-home screenings that analyze stool samples for DNA changes and blood, which can indicate a polyp.

This article originally appeared in the University of Michigan Health Blog, read more here.

  back to blog