A government-backed task force says that with cases of colon and rectal cancer steadily rising among younger people, it is lowering the recommended starting age for colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45. If the proposal from the US Preventive Services Task Force is finalized, which is expected to happen around a month from now, insurers will be required to cover the earlier screenings under the Affordable Care Act, the Wall Street Journal reports. The American Cancer Society made the same recommendation in 2018. The National Cancer Institute says that while overall colorectal cancer deaths are decreasing, cases rose by 51% between 1994 and 2014 in people under 55. Deaths in that age group rose 11% from 2005 to 2015.
"The risk of getting colon cancer for a 45-year-old today is the same as for a 50-year-old in the past," says panel chairman Dr. Alex Krist, per the New York Times. The panel said that Black people in particular should be encouraged to undergo screening early because they are among the groups most at risk. Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer this year at age 43, four years after he was diagnosed. While the recommendation for screening to start at age 45 would not have affected his case, doctors say they hope the change will raise awareness of the disease among younger people and encourage them and their doctors to take warning signs like rectal bleeding seriously. Krist warns, however, that screening is vital because most people who get colorectal cancer do not show any symptoms at first. (Read more colorectal cancer stories.)