On lowering the screening age, and being diagnosed under 50

This week, the Project founder Dr. Whitney Jones and I are in Baltimore for the Colon Cancer Alliance's National Conference.


Dr. Jones is moderating two sessions, including one on the upward trend of people who are being diagnosed under age 50, which is the current recommended screening age. This topic delves into something we feel deeply about: the need to make sure people under 50 know about the risks, symptoms and screening options, and that the recommended screening age be re-considered.

We also believe physicians who see people under 50 who have symptoms of colon cancer must be quicker to guide their patients to colonoscopies or other essential screenings.

Here's why we feel this way:

  • 10-15% of colorectal cancers are in people under 50.
  • Colon cancer in people ages 20-40 increased 6.75% from 1973-1999; rectal cancer increased 3.15% (SEER)
  • Young people are most often diagnosed with Stage III or Stage IV (this could be because their doctors were slower to recognize it could be colon cancer).

"When someone under the age of 50 develops this disease, we have to ask ourselves, is this the right strategy?" Dr. Jones told the crowd during the conference's first day.


Dr. Jones and I have co-authored a communication strategy on this topic that you can read here. We will be updating it some more in the next two weeks.

This conference has been eye-opening, and we are looking forward to spreading the word on this even more. I'll blog in the coming week on some of the stories we heard from survivors under 50, and more on hereditary colon cancer.


Andrea Shepherd, Executive Director

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