USPSTF changes recommended age for colorectal cancer screening to 45

UPDATE: May 18, 2021 | These draft guidelines were finalized by the USPSTF in May 2021. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce (USPSTF) released a new draft recommendation for colorectal cancer screening, giving a “B” recommendation for screening people of average risk ages 45-49. (There was previously no recommendation for colorectal cancer screening for this age group.) The draft recommendation maintains an “A” rating for those of average risk ages 50-75. This move comes after strong evidence in recent years of an alarming trend of increased colorectal cancer cases in people younger than 50, known as “young-onset” colorectal cancer.

Incidence rates of young-onset colorectal cancer cases have increased by 2% each year since 1990. This has led to a drop in the median age of diagnosis from 72 to 66. In 2020 alone, there will be 17,930 cases and 3,640 deaths in the U.S. from young-onset colorectal cancer—or 49 new cases and 10 deaths per day.

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover any screening or early detection services rated an “A” or “B” by the USPSTF. If the draft guidelines are finalized, this will remove a significant financial barrier and will increase access to lifesaving screenings for thousands of Americans. There will be a 30-day comment period (closing on November 23, 2020) during which members of the public can respond to the new draft recommendations, which the USPSTF will consider before finalizing the recommendations.

“45 is the new 50! The draft recommendations by the USPSTF will change standard of care in preventive medicine and enable access to earlier colorectal cancer screening for all individuals at average risk,” said Dr. Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “Lives will be saved by preventing cancers and catching cancers at an earlier stage when they are more curable.”

This change comes on the heels of similar move by the American Cancer Society, which changed its guidelines in 2018 to recommend colorectal cancer screening for those at average risk to begin at 45 (down from age 50).

The Prevent Cancer Foundation® applauds the USPSTF for its recommendation to lower the colorectal cancer screening age to 45. Reducing the screening age will increase access to screening and save lives.  

While the USPSTF’s new recommendation will go a long way to prevent cancer or detect it in an early stage, we need to ensure it finalizes these recommendations without changes. It is critical to raise your voice and tell the USPSTF you support the draft recommendations for colorectal cancer screening to Stop Cancer Before It Starts!®

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