Howard Hochster, MD, Explains Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines
Howard S. Hochster, an oncologist at Yale Cancer Center who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers, explains that screening for colon cancer is recommended to begin at age 50 due to the increase in cancer incidence at that age. However, adults under 50, including those who may be considered at high risk due to factors related to genetics or lifestyle, can also be diagnosed with the disease. "It's still kind of rare to have people in their 40s develop colorectal cancer," he says, but it does happen.
Current guidelines recommend individuals age 50 and older receive colonoscopies every 10 years if they do not have a history of polyps. If a screening exam has identified polyps, more frequent colonoscopies may be recommended.
For people who are at higher risk, they should be screened earlier, around age 40, he says. A common high-risk factor includes having a first-degree relative with a history of colorectal cancer, especially if that family member was diagnosed before age 55.