According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, with an estimated 52,980 individuals in the U.S. projected to die from the disease in 2021. After evaluating the current evidence and conducting a modeling study, USPSTF updated its recommendations on colorectal cancer screening.

The 2021 recommendations indicated that colorectal cancer screening should begin at 45, five years earlier than the previously recommended age of 50. The organization also highly recommended that people aged 50–75 carefully adhere to the screening guidelines. For those who are 76 and older, screening recommendations are based on an individual’s specific risk factors.

USPSTF said the recommendation applies to asymptomatic adults 45 years or older who are at average risk for colorectal cancer. This means an individual that has had no prior diagnoses of colorectal cancer, adenomatous polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease as well as no personal diagnosis or family history of known genetic disorders that predispose them to a risk of colorectal cancer.

Along with the change in screening initiation age, USPSTF provided recommendations for colorectal cancer screening tests, including stool-based tests and direct visualization tests; screening intervals; treatment and interventions; and particular attention to Black adults, who are at higher risk for colorectal cancer.

To emphasize the importance of screening for colorectal cancer, USPSTF reported, “In 2016, 25.6% of eligible adults in the U.S. had never been screened for colorectal cancer, and in 2018, 31.2% were not up to date with screening.”

Oncology nurses and healthcare workers must stay informed on the latest evidence-based research in the field. ONS recognizes the importance of screening for colorectal and other cancers, even when patients are asymptomatic, and advocates to eliminate screening barriers for communities of color, transgender patients, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Access additional resources and learn to develop your individual cancer screening plan with ONS.