Your Healthy Family: Age 45 now recommended to begin colon cancer screening

3:03 PM, Jun 04, 2018

Colon cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among U.S. adults, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, but many colon cancers can be prevented with regular screenings.

And now, the recommendation for when a person should be screened for colon cancer is changing from age 50 to 45.

According to Scott Steele, M.D., Chair of the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, despite the fact that colon cancer rates are falling for those older than fifty, doctors are seeing a rise in cases for younger adults.

“It seems that we’re doing a really good job in terms of improving the number of people getting screening tests for colorectal cancer, and thus lowering the overall incidence in those patients who are over 50,” said Dr. Steele. “What we need to do now is we need to say, what’s going on with these patients younger than fifty where the incidence and mortality is rising, and we have to focus on that group.”

Screening for colon cancer can include a simple stool test, or if needed, a procedure called a colonoscopy, in which the inside of the large intestine is examined using a special scope.

Colon cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the colon’s lining, which takes time to accumulate, so the older you are, the higher your risk.

And while only about ten percent of patients with colon cancer are younger than 50, often times, their cancers tend to be more advanced when caught.

When colon cancer strikes a younger adult, sometimes it can be attributed to genetics or other risk factors such as having inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

But, Dr. Steele said experts are unsure of the exact cause behind the overall growing number of younger adults being diagnosed with colon cancer.

He said that it’s important to remember that colon cancer is preventable.

“Of all of the cancers in your belly, colorectal cancer can be one that, through an intervention, we can detect it early – even in the pre-cancerous stage- and intervene on it before it gets to cancer, at that polyp stage and take care of it,” said Dr. Steele.

Dr. Steele said when it comes to preventing colon cancer, we have to pay attention to our bodies.  He urges folks to know their family history, maintain healthy lifestyle habits, and keep an eye out for symptoms.

Any sort of bowel changes accompanied by rectal bleeding are reasons to see a doctor right away.

The complete recommendation is available in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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