The American Cancer Society is recommending people start testing for colon and rectal cancer at age 45, rather than 50 as currently prescribed.
It also recommends people who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.
The group said the initial test does not have to be a colonoscopy, but instead could be one of several non-invasive tests, such as a home stool test available by prescription.
“All of these tests are good tests, and the choice should be offered to patients,” said the cancer society’s Dr. Rich Wender. “The best test is the test that gets done.”
The change in procedure is based on new information about a marked increase in the incidences of colorectal cancer, particularly rectal cancer, among younger individuals. Experts aren’t sure why there has been a 50 percent increase in cases since 1994.
Most colon cancer occurs in adults 55 and older, and the good news is that rates of cases and deaths have been falling for decades. Colon cancer, combined with rectal cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
This year, more than 140,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with it, and about 50,000 will die from it.