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The American Cancer Society has recently released updated guidelines that lower the recommended age for colon cancer screening. According to the new ACS recommendations, those at average risk for colon cancer should begin screening at age 45 instead of 50. The new guidelines were put in place following a major data review that showed a rising rate of colon cancer in adults younger than 50.
According to the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation, 43 percent of early-age onset colorectal cancer cases occur in people aged 45-49.
The updated guidelines also state that those at higher than average risk may need to begin screening prior to age 45, and more frequently and/or with specific tests. However, it is important to remember that colon cancer does not discriminate and can happen to men and women at any age.
In 2016, a 39-year-old woman was diagnosed with colon cancer days after she found out she was pregnant with her third child. This is a good reminder that colon cancer can affect anyone — male or female — at any age and screening is extremely important.
There are several methods available for colon cancer screening, including colonoscopies.
A colonoscopy is a vital screening method with potentially lifesaving benefits. Colonoscopies can improve our ability to detect colorectal cancer quickly and early, which makes this disease much more easily treatable.
We recommend that everyone talk to their doctor about their colorectal cancer risks and discuss which tests could be right for them and the appropriate timing.
In addition to regular screenings, you can also help prevent colon cancer by living a healthy lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your alcohol intake and eliminating smoking. These practices can reduce your risk for colorectal and many other forms of cancer. Knowing your family’s medical history is also important — a history of the disease in your immediate family puts you at a higher risk for the disease.
Call 800-424-DOCS (3627) or visit wilsonmedical.com to learn more about colorectal cancer detection and prevention, and to schedule your colon cancer screening.
Mamun Shahrier, MD, Ph.D, is a board-certified gastroenterologist. He practices at Wilson Gastroenterology at 2605 Forest Hills Road in Wilson. Appointments may be made by calling 252-243-7977.