New Screening Guidelines

June is men’s health month and what better way to celebrate than with……a colonoscopy? The American Cancer Society just released new guidelines for colon and rectal cancer screenings dropping the recommended age from 50 to 45 years old. Of course, that’s not just for men….it’s for everyone!

From USA Today:

Most people should start screening tests for colon and rectal cancers at age 45, rather than waiting for age 50, as long recommended, the American Cancer Society said Wednesday. 

The group said the initial test does not have to be a colonoscopy, a procedure that typically requires a day off from work and an often-unpleasant bowel cleansing routine. Instead, it could be one of several other tests, including home stool tests available by prescription.

The New York Times quoted Dr. Thomas Weber, co-chairman of an early-age onset colon cancer task group for the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. Dr. Weber was not involved in writing the new recommendation, but called it “a game changer.”

“This is a very, very big deal,” said Dr. Weber. “Solid epidemiological data from our national cancer registries documents a dramatic increase in the incidence of colon and especially rectal cancer among individuals under the age of 50, and the vast majority of those cases are in the 40- to 49-year-old age bracket.”

However, as the Washington Post pointed out, not everyone agrees with a staring age of 45.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that evaluates screening tests, decided a few years ago not to lower its recommended age from 50. It concluded that the data was mixed and that a younger starting age would provide only a “modest” benefit.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among cancers that affect both men and women, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2014 (the most recent year numbers are available)—

  • 139,992 people in the United States were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, including 73,396 men and 66,596 women.
  • 51,651 people in the United States died from colorectal cancer, including 27,134 men and 24,517 women.

It’s also important to note that a first cancer screening does not have to be a colonoscopy. In fact, there are six testing options available according to the American Cancer Society website. You can click here to see what those options are.

One more important note to keep in mind, NBC News spoke with Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society, who pointed out –

“If you have a family history or if you have inflammatory bowel disease, you’re at higher risk and you need to start earlier. These guidelines don’t apply to you. But for 80 percent of us — we’re at average risk and the screening age is now 45.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the new guidelines and whether you agree they should be moved to 45 or kept at age 50. Generating meaningful conversations around the health issues affecting the people of our state will help us take another step toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!




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