Colorectal Cancer Screening Recommended Age Is Now 45 Instead of 50—And That Change Is Important for Health Equity

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By the year 2030, colorectal cancer is projected to overtake breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among people between the ages of 20 and 49. To allow earlier detection, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has lowered the recommended colorectal cancer screening age from 50 to 45. This means younger patients can access screening without jumping through insurance loopholes.

“The concerning increase in colorectal cancer in young individuals under the age of 50 (defined as young-onset colorectal cancer) has been documented since the mid-1990s, with 11 percent of colon cancers and 15 percent of rectal cancers now occurring in patients under the age of 50 in 2020, compared to 5 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 2010,” says Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, oncologist and director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in a statement.

This new guidance from the USPSTF aligns with the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) 2018 recommendation to lower the screening age to 45. However, the ACS recommendation was nothing more than a recommendation. The recommendation from the preventative services task force, however, is recognized by the Affordable Care Act, meaning insurance providers have to cover the screening in all individuals who are at average risk for colorectal cancer.

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