(Healthline) – Healthy adults should plan on getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer starting at age 50 and continuing through age 75.
That’s according to new guidelinesTrusted Source issued today by the American College of Physicians (ACP).
People with a higher risk or family history of the disease should speak to their doctor and get screened more regular than that, the guidelines state.
In addition, the ACP suggests several screening choices. These include a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or a high sensitivity guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every 2 years as well as a colonoscopy every decade or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years with a FIT every 2 years.
Those colonoscopy alternatives allow people to skip some of the discomforts of the more invasive procedures while still having many of the benefits.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, according to Wendy Nickel, vice president of prevention at the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
In 2019, about 145,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease and 51,000 people will die from it, making screening critically important.
“We can encourage more people to get screened by raising awareness of the danger and prevalence of colorectal cancer,” Nickel told Healthline. “Physician or healthcare provider recommendation is extremely important, and data shows that the trust and influence of this relationship can have the greatest impact on encouraging individuals to get screened.”
Earlier screening is better
Even age 50 might be older than optimal to start getting colorectal cancer screenings, according to Richard Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The ACS recommends average-risk adults start getting colorectal cancer screenings at age 45 based on their review of research and the increasing prevalence and earlier onset of colorectal cancer in recent years.
“People born recently have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer,” Wender told Healthline. “This effect began a few decades and has been increasing year after year. The more recently someone was born, the higher the risk of colorectal cancer before the age of 50.”
“While the incidence of this cancer is going down in individuals over age 55 due to screening and polyp removal, the incidence is actually going up in people 50 to 54,” he added.
This happens in part because only half of the adults between ages 50 and 54 get screened.