Why 45 Is the New 50: Review Updates to Colonoscopy Recommendations


Whether you’ve undergone one or not, you've likely heard that 50 is the magic age for colonoscopy exams. Most healthcare providers advise that their patients get their first colonoscopy exam at age 50 and then every decade thereafter. Current studies show, however, that you should plan to undergo your initial colonoscopy screening even before this time in life.

When should you begin scheduling colonoscopies, and why has this changed? Utah Gastroenterology is ready to answer all of your questions. Our gastrointestinal specialists routinely perform this exam for patients throughout Salt Lake City and St. George, UT. They can provide detailed information on what to anticipate with a colonoscopy, when to undergo them, and much more.

Why screen for colon cancer sooner?

For years, we’ve known that age 50 is when we should start screening exams for colon cancer. However, new research studies reveal that we should probably begin screening for the disease even before then – upon turning age 45. As a matter of fact, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending it. A number of insurance providers, including Medicare, have augmented their plans to begin offering coverage for colonoscopy exams at this age in life.

Much of what has spurred this update comes from an elevation in the number of colorectal cancer cases in younger individuals. Between the years 2008 and 2017, the mortality rate among individuals aged 55 and younger rose by 1%. This rise is a bit surprising given that the all-around colon and rectal cancer rates declined within that same range of time.

In accordance with these recent discoveries, our Utah Gastroenterology colonoscopy doctors suggest getting a colon cancer screening with our GI team upon turning age 45.

Why are colonoscopies important?

Most individuals are probably aware that having screenings for colon cancer is vital in the older years. The reason for this is that colorectal cancer can be detected very early and commonly avoided with these simple tests. Regardless of whether a family member has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, you have been diagnosed with this disease, or you've reached that “ideal age,” colonoscopy exams are a central part of preserving your health and wellness.

Taking about 15 – 30 minutes to complete, these screenings enable our providers to gain a clear, comprehensive view of your colon. When providing this exam, we can look for abnormalities and excise any growths (colon polyps), which can be sent to the lab for in-depth evaluation. By extracting and testing colon polyps, we aim to catch colon cancer at a very early stage, and hopefully prevent it altogether.

Am I at risk for colon and rectal cancer?

Now you are aware of the age to begin having colorectal cancer screenings, but what are the risks for this disease? Some common risk factors for colon cancer involve:

  • Previous radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvis
  • An inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Inadequate amounts of exercise
  • Poor dietary habits, or a diet high in fat and low in fiber, fruits, and vegetables
  • Tobacco use

If you carry one or more of these risk factors, we suggest you reach out to your nearest Utah Gastroenterology location as early as possible to learn if you should arrange for a colonoscopy.

Get a colonoscopy screening in Utah

We understand that undergoing a colonoscopy may seem unpleasant, but this quick, commonly performed, vital evaluation could save your life. If you’re 45 or around that age, please contact Utah Gastroenterology to schedule a colonoscopy. At our GI centers throughout Salt Lake City and St. George, UT, we do our best to make these screenings as fast and comfortable as possible. In the event you require assistance determining if your insurance covers colonoscopies, our caring team will be happy to help.

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