The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending dropping the minimum age to start regular colon cancer screenings by five years, a move that’s drawing praise from the radiology community.
For the first time, the volunteer, independent group of experts is suggesting starting these regular check-ins begin at age 45, rather than 50. Recommended screening methods include “virtual colonoscopy” utilizing CT imaging, along with the traditional version, and stool-based tests. USPSTF is also advocating for greater efforts to reach populations that are underserved and at a greater risk of dying from colon cancer.
The American College of Radiology said Wednesday that it “strongly supports” the new guidelines.
“We applaud the USPSTF for recommending that screening for colorectal cancer begin at age 45, as both we and the [American Cancer Society] have previously recommended,” Judy Yee, MD, chair of the college’s Colon Cancer Committee, said in a statement. “We also continue to encourage Medicare to follow the science and make all validated colorectal cancer screenings, including less-invasive CT colonography, available to all patients. The best test is the one that gets done.”
A recent study, published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, found that a lack of Medicare coverage for CTC may be dragging down use of these screenings. And it is minority patients who are getting hit hardest, Emory University researchers reported. In its statement, the ACR noted that Black individuals are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, with a 40% greater risk of dying from the disease.
The USPSTF said it will continue to “strongly recommend” screening people who are 50 to 75 years old. Those between the ages of 76 and 85, meanwhile, should decide on an individual basis. Recommendations apply to adults without symptoms who do not have a history of colorectal polyps, nor a personal or family history that might up their risk.
“New science about colorectal cancer in younger people has enabled us to expand our recommendation to screen all adults starting at age 45, especially Black adults who are more likely to die from this disease,” task force member Michael Barry, MD, said in a statement. “Screening earlier will help prevent more people from dying from colorectal cancer.”