Why 45 Is the New 50 for Colonoscopies

May 28, 2024


For many years, the recommended age to start having regular colonoscopies was 50. Due to an increased prevalence of colorectal cancer among young and middle-age people, the official recommendation has changed in recent years. 

Now, the American Cancer Society says all people with average risk of colorectal cancer should start screening at age 45. 

Colorectal cancer is most treatable when found early. Colonoscopies not only detect the disease, but can prevent cancer because precancerous polyps can be removed during the procedure.

Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer Screening Starting at Age 45

Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the US. But the death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) of colorectal cancer has been dropping for several decades. One reason for this is that colorectal polyps are now more often found by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers.

When colorectal cancer is found at an early stage before it has spread, the five-year relative survival rate is about 90%. But only about 4 out of 10 colorectal cancers are found at this early stage. When cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum, survival rates are lower.

Unfortunately, about 1 in 3 people in the US who should get tested for colorectal cancer have never been screened. This may be because they don't know that regular testing could save their lives from this disease, or it could be due to factors like cost and health insurance coverage.

It’s also interesting that a polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With screening, we can find and remove these developing polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

It’s part of our mission at the Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute to make sure that everyone knows how important screening and colonoscopies are. We want everyone to know the facts below about screening:

  • Starting at age 45, individuals with an average risk of colorectal cancer should undergo regular screening with one of six different tests, including colonoscopies. We will work with you to determine the exact testing approach that’s best.
  • Following a positive result from a non-colonoscopy screening test, a timely follow-up colonoscopy should be performed to prevent cancer.
  • People who are in good health and with a life expectancy of more than 10 years should continue regular colorectal cancer screening through the age of 75.
  • For people ages 76 through 85, the decision to be screened should be based on personal preference, life expectancy, overall health, and prior screening history.
  • People over 85 should no longer undergo colorectal cancer screening.
  • People with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, such as a family history, should ask their physician to determine the best age to start screening.

We also want to note that the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many elective procedures being put on hold, and this has led to a substantial decline in cancer screening. We continue to perform colonoscopies and other screening procedures with appropriate safety precautions in place. 

If it’s time for you to have a colonoscopy or schedule other types of colorectal cancer screening, contact us today and don’t put it off any longer! The experience will probably not be nearly as bad as you’re expecting!

Learn more about colon cancer at Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute.

Alabama Colon & Rectal Institute specializes in treating diseases of the colon, rectum, and anus. We are  experts in performing colonoscopies, anorectal surgery, and minimally invasive colon surgery. Our three doctors are known regionally for their expertise in these areas. Visit our website for more information, give us a call to make an appointment at 205-458-5000, or email us at [email protected].  

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