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The American Cancer Society released new guidelines that recommend adults start colon cancer screening earlier, at age 45 instead of 50.

The change comes after multiple studies found rising rates of colon cancer in people under 50. 

“It used to be believed that colon cancer was only a disease of older individuals, but over the last decade or so we have noticed a shift in the development of colon cancer in patients at an earlier age,” said Dr. Mark Friedman, a gastroenterologist in Moffitt’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Department. “I think the change in guidelines is meant to address that shift.”

The new guidelines are for men and women ages 45 to 75 of average risk of colon cancer. Recommendations are different for people with inflammatory bowel diseases or a family history of colon cancer.  Screening for African Americans has historically been recommended at age 45.

Friedman says lowering the screening age guidelines could lead to providers and patients taking gastrointestinal symptoms for seriously.

“I think colon cancer screening is of the upmost importance and anyone who has the age appropriate or genetic risk factors to do so. I think as we are noticing the shift in the population of patients who are developing colon cancer we need to get more aggressive about this preventative measure.”

Screening can include options such as colonoscopies and at-home tests.

Most insurance companies cover procedures based on recommendations by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force. The task force currently recommends screening starting at age 50. 

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Americans. This year, the two cancers will kill more than 50,000 people.