Each week, OMRF physician-scientist Dr. Eliza Chakravarty opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from OMRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Adam Cohen.
I read that the Centers for Disease Control recently revised its guidelines for colon cancer screening. What are the new standards, and why did things change?
Dr. Chakravarty Prescribes
The CDC is now recommending that in healthy people, routine screenings for colon cancer begin at age 45. This new guidance drops the age to begin regular screenings, most commonly done with a colonoscopy, from 50 to 45.
The new recommendations bring the CDC into line with the American Cancer Society, which lowered the recommended age to 45 three years ago.
Like the Cancer Society, the CDC has changed its guidance due to rising rates of colorectal cancer in young adults. Colorectal cancer is now the third leading killer among cancers, claiming more than 50,000 lives in the U.S. annually.
The rate of colorectal cancer has risen almost 15% among adults aged 40 to 49 in the last 15 years. Adults under 50 now account for more than 10% of all cases. A paper published in April estimates that by 2030, colorectal cancer will become the leading cause of cancer deaths among people aged 20 to 49.
The new CDC guidelines are noteworthy because they align with a similar recommendation last month from an influential independent task force, which means that private health insurers will almost certainly begin to cover colonoscopies and other screening methods (such as stool tests) beginning at age 45, not 50. And they apply even if you have no family history or known risk factors like diabetes, obesity or a history of smoking.
As always, be sure to check with your insurer before scheduling a screening. But if you’re 45 to 49 years old, you should put this on the list to talk to your physician about at your next visit.
Do you have a health query for Dr. Chakravarty? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!