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Think your 40s are too young for a colonoscopy? Think again.



Colon cancer rates among younger adults are on the rise.

A colonoscopy can save your life. And now that the official guidelines around testing for colorectal cancer have changed, millions more Americans are currently eligible for screenings.

Experts: 45 Is the new 55

In May 2021, 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.

This follows sobering trends around the disease in the United States. According to a new report, rates of colorectal cancer have been on the rise in people younger than 55 since the 1990s, increasing at a rate of 1% to 2% each year.

Screenings have lowered cancer deaths

Dr. Michael Goldfarb, a gastroenterologist and one of Horizon’s Medical Directors, 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 2023. 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.

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.

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.