Performing colon cancer screening on individuals ages 40-49 with a family history of the disease could dramatically boost cancer detection rates, according to a new study published April 20 in Cancer.
The study notes that colon cancer rates in adults under 50 are rising around the world. Most guidelines recommend that screening be started earlier for people with a family history of colorectal cancer.
Many guidelines suggest that screening should start at age 40 for people with a first-degree relative with colorectal cancer, or 10 years before the age of diagnosis of the youngest relative who was diagnosed with colon cancer.
In the current study, researchers wanted to assess the impact of guidelines based on family history of colon cancer, so they looked at data from people ages 40-49 in the Colon Cancer Family Registry from 1998 to 2007. In all, there were 2,473 individuals with colorectal cancer and 772 without, according to the team, led by Dr. Samir Gupta of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and the University of California, San Diego.
Gupta et al found that 25% of the individuals with colon cancer and 10% of those without met the guidelines for earlier cancer screening based on their family history. And 98.4% of those who met the earlier screening criteria should have been screened at a younger age than when their cancer was diagnosed.
The researchers believe the findings indicate that the patients in the study population would have had their cancer diagnosed earlier -- or even had it prevented -- if they had been screened at a younger age using family-history guidelines.