New guidelines for colorectal cancer screening published

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently published new guidelines for colorectal cancer screening, updating prior recommendations released in 2015.

The updated guidelines suggest clinicians screen adults ages 50-75 who are at average risk for the disease, and discuss the benefits, harms and costs of the three screening methods prior to undertaking any one procedure.

Developed alongside the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force and others, the new guidelines recommend a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or high-sensitivity, guaiac-based fecal occult blood test every two years; a colonoscopy every 10 years; or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 10 years, with FIT every two years. Previous guidelines gave doctors four methods from which to choose. 

“Not enough people in the United States get screened for colorectal cancer,” ACP President Robert M. McLean, MD, said in a statement from the organization. “Physicians should perform an individualized risk assessment for colorectal cancer in all adults. Doctors and patients should select the screening test based on a discussion of the benefits, harms, costs, availability, frequency and patient preferences.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the U.S., and one in three people are not up to date on their screening, according to a study published in August.

That research also demonstrated that screening rates did not improve when patients were provided more options for doing so. A study last year, however, suggested that mailing colorectal cancer screening tests—such as FIT kits—to patients may improve those rates.

Read more about the ACP’s update in Annals of Internal Medicine.