ASCRS Response to American Cancer Society's Colonoscopy Guideline

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, IL  Risks of colon cancer are rising in patients under age 50.  As experts who see patients presenting with colorectal cancer, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS) understands that starting screening at a younger age may prevent more cancers.   New recommendations from the American Cancer Society support considering screening in patients as young as 45.

“We are seeing the incidence of colon cancers rising in young people. Often young people are told that rectal bleeding or changes in bowel movements can’t be cancer, because they are too young,” says ASCRS President David Margolin.  “These new recommendations not only support colonoscopies in patients with symptoms, like bleeding or constipation, but discuss doing your first screening colonoscopy even if you aren’t having symptoms at age 45.”

The new recommendations are based on data published in February in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  Using data based on the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, the authors found that the incidence of colon cancer rose by 1-2% in patients aged 20-39 per year from the mid 1990’s through 2013.  In adults between 40-54 years, that incidence rose by 0.5%-1.0%.  The incidence of adults with colon cancer is rising even more quickly. 

Screening can help prevent colon and rectal cancer by removing dangerous polyps before they have a chance to turn into cancer.   Many people believe that they will not develop colon cancer if they don’t have symptoms.  “Symptoms are actually a late finding of colon cancer,” says Dr. Margolin.  “Most patients with colon cancer don’t have bleeding or changes in bowel movements.  We want to prevent colon cancer, not just treat it.”