New US Preventive Services Task Force Draft Guidelines on Colorectal Cancer Lower Age to Start Screening, Will Save Lives if Finalized

October 27, 2020

Washington, D.C. – The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released new draft guidelines today updating their recommendations for colorectal cancer screenings for average-risk populations. The new guidelines lowered the age to start screening from 50 to 45 and recommend continuing regular screening until age 75. The guidelines still classify screening from age 50-75 as grade “A” but have added 45-49 as grade “B.” Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), compliant plans must cover screenings with both A and B ratings. The guidelines recommend the decision to screen those aged 76 to 85 years be individualized based on screening history and overall health status and classify that age group as grade “C”. These new draft guidelines are in line with the most recent American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines released in 2018. Since that time, ACS and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) have urged the USPSTF to expedite its review cycle to take into account new scientific evidence that supports starting routine screening at age 45. 

The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, ACS CAN President:

“Research shows rates of colorectal cancer are increasing in young-and middle-aged populations, which spurred ACS to lower its recommended screening age to 45 in 2018. Because colorectal screenings are considered essential health benefits under the ACA, if these draft USPSTF guidelines are finalized as is, individuals with ACA-compliant plans age 45-49 who previously were not eligible to get coverage for colorectal screenings will gain access at no cost. Knowing cost is a major barrier for patients getting screened, this change would help move our mission forward to end suffering and death from cancer.

“This year alone, ACS estimates nearly 150,000 individuals will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 53,000 will die from the disease. But colorectal cancer is preventable when polyps are found and removed through colonoscopy screenings. Beginning screening at a younger age will lead to earlier diagnoses, when treatment is less expensive and patients are more likely to survive, and in many cases, prevention of the disease altogether. These guidelines have the potential to save countless lives. Once finalized, ACS CAN will work with state insurance commissioners to ensure plans in their states are complying.

“The significance of increasing coverage for colorectal screenings at an earlier age also highlights the importance of the essential health benefits within the ACA. The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in the California vs. Texas case on November 10 to determine the constitutionality of the law. ACS CAN filed an amicus brief in support of the law along with ACS and 18 other patient organizations, citing the devastating impact patients would face should the court rule to invalidate critical patient protections including no- and low-cost prevention coverage in the ACA.”


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