Doctors in the United States and Europe should begin screening patients for colorectal cancer at 45 years old, according to new research presented at the United European Gastroenterology conference. The study showed marked increases in the detection of such colon cancer risk factors as neoplasia, polyps and adenomas in colonoscopy patients ages 45 to 49, demonstrating a dramatic rise in young-onset cases of the illness, Healio reports.

Previously, colon cancer screenings were typically recommended for patients 55 years or older. However, this new report shows that 3 in 10 cases of colorectal cancer are now diagnosed in patients younger than 55. The results remained consistent even when patients with a family history of polyps or cancer were excluded from the findings.

For the study, researchers at the French Society of Digestive Endoscopy evaluated 6,027 colonoscopies from their prospective health database. Study subjects were 55 percent female with a mean age of 57; they were analyzed for polyp detection according to three age groups: 40 to 44, 45 to 49 and 50 to 54.

They found that neoplasia, or abnormal tissue growth in the colon, increased by 400 percent in patients ages 45 to 49 compared with those ages 40 to 44. This risk was also 8 percent higher in those 45 to 49 years old compared with those ages 50 to 54.

The mean number of polyps (clumps of cells that grow on the lining of the colon or rectum) also increased by more than 95 percent in patients ages 45 to 49 compared with the study’s youngest cohort. The mean number of polyps also increased by 19.1 percent from ages 45 to 49 to 50 to 54. 

As a result of these findings, researchers said lowering the colon cancer screening age to 45 could help doctors significantly increase early detection of colon cancer in adults, while also enabling the safe removal of potentially cancerous polyps before they become dangerous. As with most cancers, early detection of colon cancer is key to survival and recovery.

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