From the AGA Journals

Registry data support lowering CRC screening age to 45

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Finding real rates of neoplastic pathology

An alarming trend of increased colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence has been noted among individuals 20-49 years of age over the past 2 decades. This fact combined with the results of microsimulation studies have led all purveyors of CRC screening guidelines in the United States to lower their recommended age for the initiation of average-risk screening from 50 to 45. Despite this major shift in recommendations, relatively little is known about the rates of premalignant neoplasia in this population.

Dr. Reid M. Ness, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.

Dr. Reid M. Ness

The current study by Trivedi et. al. presents the results of a massive retrospective cross-sectional study of findings at initial colonoscopy in patients 18-54 who underwent endoscopy at an AMSURG ambulatory surgical center between 2014 and 2021. Data concerning these procedures had previously been collected using the GI Quality Improvement Consortium (GIQuIC) registry. They found that the prevalence of advanced premalignant lesions (APLs) in those 45-49 was almost as high as in those 50-54, and that the prevalence of CRC was even higher. Moreover, 40- to 44-year-olds had APL and CRC prevalence rates almost as high as those aged 45-49. They further found that increasing age, male sex, White race, family history of CRC, and examinations performed for bleeding indications or screening were all associated with higher odds for APLs and CRC. They concluded that these data provide support for lowering the screening age to 45 for all average-risk individuals.

Future studies will need to document the actual effectiveness of CRC screening in persons aged 45-49 and examine the actual cost-benefit of lowering the recommended screening age.

Reid M. Ness, MD, MPH, AGAF is an associate professor in the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, department of medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn., and at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Nashville campus. He is also an investigator in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Dr. Ness is a study investigator with Guardant Health.



Approximately one-third of people between 45 and 49 years of age who undergo colonoscopies have neoplastic colorectal pathology, according to a retrospective analysis.

According to the researchers, led by Parth Trivedi, MD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, there has progressively been a “disturbing” rise in early-onset colorectal cancer (CRC) in the United States, which has prompted guidelines from the American Cancer Society to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to recommend lowering the CRC screening starting age to 45 years old for average-risk individuals. Despite these recommendations, little research to date has fully characterized the prevalence of colorectal neoplasia in individuals younger than the currently recommended CRC onset screening age of 50 years.

Dr. Trivedi and colleagues, who published their study findings in Gastroenterology, retrospectively reviewed colonoscopy data recorded in the Gastrointestinal Quality Improvement Consortium Registry to address the current knowledge gaps on early-onset CRC. Collected data were for procedures conducted at 123 AMSURG ambulatory endoscopy centers across 29 states between January 2014 and February 2021. In total, 2,921,816 colonoscopies during the study period among patients aged 18-54 years were recorded by AMSURG-associated endoscopists; of these, 562,559 met inclusion criteria for high-quality screening or diagnostic colonoscopy procedures.

The researchers pooled a young-onset age group, including patients between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, in whom 145,998 procedures were performed, including 79,934 procedures in patients aged 45-49 years. A comparator group with 336,627 procedures in patients aged 50-54 years was also included in the study. The findings were categorized into CRC, advanced premalignant lesions (APL), and “any neoplasia,” the latter of which included all adenomas, sessile serrated polyps, and CRC.

Among patients aged 18-44 years, the most frequent indications were “diagnostic-other” (45.6%) as well as “diagnostic-bleeding” (39.4%). Among patients between 45 and 49 years of age, the most frequent indications were “screening” (41.4%) and “diagnostic-other” (30.7%). Nearly all (90%) procedures among those aged 50-54 years were for screening.

A multivariable logistic regression identified 5 variables predictive of either APL or CRC in patients between 18 and 49 years of age: increasing age (odds ratio, 1.08; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-1.08; P <0.01), male sex (OR = 1.67; 95% CI, 1.63-1.70; P <0.01), White race (vs. African American: OR = 0.76; 95% CI, 0.73-0.79, P <0.01; vs. Asian: OR = 0.89; 95% CI, 0.84-0.94, P <0.01), family history of CRC (OR = 1.21; 95% CI, 1.16-1.26; P <0.01) and polyps (OR = 1.33; 95% CI, 1.24-1.43; P <0.01), and examinations for bleeding (OR = 1.15; 95% CI, 1.12-1.18; P <0.01) or screening (OR = 1.20; 95% CI, 1.16-1.24; P <0.01).

The prevalence of neoplastic findings in the young-onset age-group increased with increasing age for the categories of any neoplasia, APLs, and CRC. Among patients aged 40-44, 26.59% had any neoplasia, 5.76% had APL, and 0.53% had CRC. In those aged 45-49 years, around 32% had any neoplasia, approximately 7.5% had APLs, and nearly 0.58% had CRC. In the 50- to 54-year-old group, the prevalences of any neoplasia, APL, and CRC were 37.72%, 9.48%, and 0.32%, respectively.

Across all age groups, a family history of CRC was associated with a higher prevalence of any neoplasia and APL. In addition, the rates of any APL and neoplasia in patients with a family history of CRC were comparable to patients who were 5 years older but had no family history of the disease. Across most young-onset age group, individuals with a positive family history had a lower CRC prevalence versus patients with no family history.

The researchers noted that their population data are derived from ambulatory endoscopy centers, which may introduce bias associated with insurance coverage or patient preference to attend specific endoscopic centers. Additionally, the investigators stated that many records on race and ethnicity were missing, further limiting the findings.

“The present analysis of neoplastic colorectal pathology among individuals younger than age 50 suggests that lowering the screening age to 45 for men and women of all races and ethnicities will likely detect important pathology rather frequently,” they concluded. In addition, the researchers noted that the study results “underscore the importance of early messaging to patients and providers in the years leading up to age 45.” Ultimately, improved “awareness of pathology prevalence in individuals younger than age 45 can help guide clinicians in the clinical management of CRC risk,” the researchers wrote.

Several of the researchers reported conflicts of interest with Exact Sciences Corp and Freenome. The study received no industry funding.

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