As you get older, your risk of getting cancer increases, with more than nine out of 10 cancers diagnosed in people 45 and older, per WebMD. This might seem like a scary statistic, but it can also be motivating, as there are plenty of ways you can improve your chances of recovery through early diagnosis and treatment. Cancer screenings in particular are heavily endorsed and recommended by experts because they help catch these cancers at earlier stages, when they can be treated more effectively. And according to the most recent guidance, there's one cancer in particular that you might need to start getting screened for earlier than you think. Read on to find out which cancer screenings should begin at 45.
If you're 45 and older, you should be getting screened for colorectal cancer.
On May 18, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued new recommendations on colorectal cancer screenings, publishing the guidance in JAMA. According to the new guidelines, anyone 45 t0 75 years old should be getting screened for colon and rectal cancers. Per a Feb. 2021 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the rate of colorectal cancer in adults aged 40 to 49 has increased by almost 15 percent from 2002 to 2016. And the National Cancer Institute reports that almost 94 percent of all new colorectal cancer cases occur in people 45 years and older.
Colorectal cancer screenings were previously recommended for people over 50.
The "45 and over" recommendation is lower than what the agency had originally recommended. In 2016, the USPSTF said that screening for colon and rectal cancers should start at age 50.
"We think by screening, starting at age 50, we prevent about 50 cases of colorectal cancer in a population of 1,000 people and avoid about 25 deaths. If we drop to age 45, we'll prevent two or three additional cases and maybe one death," Michael Barry, MD, vice chair of the task force, told CNN. "We thought it was appreciable enough that it was time to change the recommendation to go down to age 45."
This new recommendation will help these screenings get covered by insurance.
According to CNN, this official recommendation will allow for colorectal cancer screening services to be covered by most private insurance plans with no copay for adults aged 45 to 75. Before the recommendation change, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reported that insurers were not required to cover the cost of colorectal cancer screenings in those younger than 50 because the official recommendation started at that age. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires both private insurers and Medicare to cover the costs of colorectal cancer screening tests recommended by the USPSTF, meaning insurance will start covering these screenings for people 45 and older.
"The implication is that for many people, there'll be less of a barrier to getting screened aged 45 to 49," Barry told CNN, noting that there may be a time lag before insurance coverage actually kicks in.
RELATED: For more health content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the U.S.
This new recommendation is important because colorectal cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in the U.S. for both men and women. According to the latest data from the ACS, colorectal cancer is the third most deadly cancer in the U.S., following only lung cancer in men and women, prostate cancer in men, and breast cancer in women. Nearly 52,980 people in the U.S. are estimated to die from colorectal cancer in 2021. However, the USPSTF notes that by 2018, 31 percent of those who should be getting screened for colorectal cancer were not up to date with their screenings.