16:32 PM

45 Is the New 50 for Colonoscopies



Younger screening age means an earlier start to reduce your cancer risk.

A colonoscopy can save your life. And a change in the guidelines for who should get one — and when — means that millions more Americans are now eligible for screenings.

In May of this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — an independent panel of experts — recommended that colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 45 for adults at average risk. Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the colon (large intestine) or rectum — the lower parts of the gastrointestinal tract.

The task force found research showing that lowering the age to 45 could avoid more early deaths than starting at age 50 — the previous threshold for average-risk adults.* This follows some sobering trends about the disease in the U.S., including:

  • Rates of colorectal cancer climbed by almost 15 percent from 2000-2002 to 2014-2016 among people ages 40 to 49.
  • Approximately 10.5 percent of new colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in people younger than 50.

Dr. Michael Goldfarb, a Medical Director at Horizon and gastroenterologist, noted that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, with more than 50,000 people in the U.S. projected to die of colorectal cancer in 2021. Colorectal cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people ages 65 to 74. Due to increased screenings, colorectal cancer rates in this age group have declined steadily since the mid-1980s.

“Colorectal cancer screenings can save lives, but it takes the willingness of the patient — particularly younger ones — to follow medical guidelines and the recommendations of their doctors and commit to a screening,” Dr. Goldfarb said. “That means people ages 45 to 75 should be screened to reduce their risk of dying from colorectal cancer, as recommended by the USPSTF.”

The USPSTF recommendation does not apply to people at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer. This group may need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and possibly undergo other tests. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or think you may be at high risk for colorectal cancer for other reasons, speak with your doctor.

Members have several screening options, including ones that do not require a colonoscopy or a bowel prep. Talk with your doctor about which tests are right for you and how often testing should be done.

If your plan doesn’t include BlueCard® or the Away from Home Care Program, but you have out-of-network benefits, your child will be covered under the specific terms of your policy’s out-of-network coverage. Keep in mind, out-of-network doctors’ visits and procedures are more expensive than if you stay in-network.

One thing you can count on: You and your family are always covered in a medical emergency even when outside of New Jersey.

Contact Horizon if you have questions about the specifics of your plan’s coverage.

Avoid an unhealthy lifestyle

In addition to regular screenings, you can take steps to avoid an unhealthy lifestyle and lower your risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Don't smoke
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight

*“Average risk” means there has been no prior diagnosis of colorectal cancer, no personal health history of colon polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, or family health history of genetic disorders that would increase the risk of getting the disease.