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Could Early Screening Reduce Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer?

SCREENING for colorectal cancer (CRC) could significantly reduce risk in females if carried out before the age of 50 years, stated a new study. Currently, a lot of screening is focused on individuals over the age of 50 years. However, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Boston, USA, support recommendations from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that screening should start at age 45 years to address the continuous rise in cases of younger-onset CRC. 

In the USA, CRC has the third-highest prevalence of death in both males and females. There was an observed increase of 51% from 1974–2013 in individuals younger than 50 years who are not recommended for CRC screening. The researchers from MGH wanted to investigate the link between the risk of CRC and endoscopies in this study.  

The study involved 111,801 females from a large group of registered nurses living in 14 states from the Nurses’ Health Study II. The results from the study found that there was a 50–60% decrease in the risk of CRC in females who had started endoscopy screening at age 45 years compared with those females who had not undergone screening at all. Furthermore, commencing screening between the ages of 45 years and 49 years resulted in a substantial reduction in the cases of CRC diagnosed through age 60 years.

“While there’s been an alarming increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer in recent decades in younger individuals, screening has largely been focused on people over 50,” said senior author Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist and epidemiologist at MGH. “Our work provides first-of-its-kind data to show that initiating screening at a younger age can reduce an individual’s risk of colorectal cancer and the population’s overall incidence of cancer, thus demonstrating the substantial impact of earlier screening on both individual and population-wide scales.”