New colorectal cancer screening guidelines no longer make colonoscopies a rite of passage for 50-year-olds. Instead, people can celebrate their mid-40s by making an appointment for a procedure most people dread.
Typically a cancer found in people older than 50, colorectal cancer is the third-most-common cancer among men and women and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
The guidelines for colorectal cancer screenings were changed due, in part, to data showing an increase in the rate of the cancer among younger populations.
A University of Florida study found younger patients with Stage 2 or 3 rectal cancer did not see the same benefits from the current recommended treatments, chemotherapy and radiation, as did older patients. The findings suggest that early-onset colorectal cancer may differ biologically in its response to these treatments.
Previous guidelines recommended people ages 50 or older seek screenings. Now, with the number of younger patients with colorectal cancer on the rise, the age for screenings has shifted to 45.
Researchers pointed out that the standard of care today was set long ago by treating older patients, who were seen as more susceptible to the disease. Now, they’re seeing that younger patients don’t respond well to that and, worse, they may face more risks by being exposed to treatment toxicity associated with chemotherapy and radiation.
The UF study is the largest one to include specific survival data for a younger population. The research highlights the paths future studies of this population should take and could drastically change how colorectal cancer is treated in younger patients.