Updates on Age to Start and Stop Colorectal Cancer Screening
The US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer (CRC) has lowered the recommended age to start CRC screening from 50 to 45 years of age for all average-risk individuals.
Although no studies have directly demonstrated the result of lowering the age of screening, lead author Swati G. Patel, MD, of University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, Aurora, and colleagues suggested that the increasing incidence of advanced CRC among younger individuals, coupled with the net benefit of screening, warrant a lower age threshold.
“Recent data…show that CRC incidence rates in individuals ages 50 to 64 have increased by 1% annually between 2011 and 2016,” the authors wrote inGastroenterology. “Similarly, CRC incidence and mortality rates in persons under age 50, termed early-age onset CRC (EAO-CRC), are also increasing.”
The task force of nine experts, representing the American Gastroenterological Association, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, conducted a literature review and generated recommendations using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) criteria. In addition to recommending a lower age for initial screening, Patel and colleagues provided guidance for cessation of screening among older individuals.
Guidance for Screening Initiation
According to the authors, the present risk of CRC among younger individuals mirrors the historical risk for older individuals before screening was prevalent.
“The current CRC incidence rates in individuals ages 45 to 49 are similar to the incidence rates observed in 50-year-olds in 1992, before widespread CRC screening was performed,” they wrote.
Elevated rates among younger people have been disproportionately driven by rectal cancer, according to the authors. From 2006 to 2015, incidence of rectal cancer among Americans under 50 increased 1.7% per year, compared with 0.7% per year for colon cancer, based on data from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
Associated mortality rates also increased, the authors noted. From 1999-2019, mortality from colon cancer among people 45-49 years increased from 6.4 to 6.6 deaths per 100,000 individuals, while deaths from rectal cancer increased from 1.3 to 1.7 per 100,000, according to the CDC. Concurrently, CRC-associated mortality rates among older individuals generally declined.
While these findings suggest a growing disease burden among the under-50-years age group, controlled data demonstrating the effects of earlier screening are lacking, Patel and colleagues noted. Still, they predicted that expanded screening would generate a net benefit