Screen for bowel cancer at 45 ‘to save thousands of lives’

2 minute read

Earlier screening would save 14,000 lives over a decade as rates spike, a new report says.

Bowel cancer rates are growing among younger age groups, particularly those aged 45, prompting calls to lower the screening age.

A report commissioned by Bowel Cancer Australia found that lowering the age from 50 to 45 would catch 14,000 extra cases of bowel cancer over a decade.

“A widening of the screening program beginning at age 45 would bring around two million extra Australians into the safety net of this program, reducing mortality from bowel cancer and preventing family trauma in a relatively young lifecycle stage,” said study author, Adjunct Professor Bernard Salt, in a statement.

“Looking at historic and projected mortality rates, it is evident that bowel cancer is a major threat to the 45-49 age group,” he said.

In Australia last year alone more than 600 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer between the ages of 45 and 49, half of them when the cancer was already advanced.

In addition, more than 100 people in this age bracket died, which accounts for one in 30 bowel cancer deaths.

The report coincides with a similar call from the United States Preventive Services Task Force for screening to start at age 45. In May 2018, the American Cancer Society changed its screening guidelines to recommend lowering the starting age for people at average risk of bowel cancer from 50 to 45 years.

“Of the top 10 cancers, bowel cancer is the only cancer to show an increase in mortality rates from 2008 to 2018 and projected to 2021 in the 45-49 cohort,” said Professor Salt. “It is also the cancer that responds best to the kind of early detection offered by a screening program.”

For more information, read the report: Protecting nine million Australians: the case for screening from age 45.

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