Colorectal screening should begin at age 45

Colorectal cancer screening for average-risk patients should begin at age 45 instead of 50, according to new guidelines released last month from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).  

This substantial change is based on data that colorectal cancer has been increasing among younger age groups, as well as modeling that shows a reduction in cancer deaths by starting routine screening five years earlier.   

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death among women and men in Wisconsin, and the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.   

The USPSTF proposed the change last October and announced final guidance in May. The new recommendation applies to average-risk adults ages 45-49, and includes a menu of screening tests such as colonoscopies and stool-based tests. Guidelines for adults ages 50 and older haven’t changed.  

While other groups such as the American Cancer Society have previously recommended lowering the screening age to 45, the USPSTF change is particularly notable, as federal law requires that health insurers cover USPSTF-recommended services.  

As a result, the new recommendation is expected to expand access to much-needed screening services, particularly among Black and American Indian populations that experience higher colorectal cancer rates.  

Bottom line, you can help spread the word. Adults ages 45 years or older should talk with their doctors about when to get screened for colorectal cancer, and what type of screening test may be right for them. 

Related Resources:
Colorectal Cancer Screening Program (overview)
Social media toolkit
Colorectal Cancer Screening Fact Sheet for Patients (also in Spanish)
Learn more about Health Equity (WI Cancer Plan, Chapter 1)
Learn more about Early Detection and Screening (WI Cancer Plan, Chapter 3)