BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The American Cancer Society is out with new screening guidelines for colorectal cancer.
The organization now recommends that you be screened for colon cancer starting at age 45 instead of 50.
Rising rates of colon cancer and deaths in younger people led to the updated guidelines that were released on Wednesday.
"Some cutting-edge research over the past 10 years showed an incline in people younger than 50 developing colorectal cancer," explained Anna Lisa Weigel, the Health Systems Account Manager for the American Cancer Society's Birmingham office.
Researchers with the cancer society found a 51 percent increase in colorectal cancer among those under the age of 50 since 1994.
"Any screening is better than no screening for colon cancer," said Weigel.
According to Weigel, there are several options for getting screened, including a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). She said that test needs to be done every year and should be followed up with a colonoscopy if there are any positive results.
"If you find polyps and you can remove the polyps, you have basically removed potential cancer from forming in your body," said Weigel.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and many doctors still recommend your first colon cancer screening at 50, but Weigel believes that could change because of the new research.
"Just be your body's own advocate. If you're at greater risk for colon cancer, talk to your provider about being screened at an earlier age," continued Weigel.
Dr. Drake Lavender, a physician and professor at the University of Alabama, agrees there's been an increase of colon cancer in people younger than 50 years of age and it's risen 1 percent each year over the last decade.
Researchers believe the rise in colon cancer incidents are due to the obesity epidemic in our country, environmental factors and eating large amounts of processed foods like canned meat.
Colon Cancer is one of those types of cancers that if you catch early it's very important in the overall outcome of treatment you can receive," said Dr. Drake Lavender said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colon and rectal cancers are the second leading cause of deaths in the U.S. for cancers that affect both men and women. Doctors believe higher obesity rates and diets high in processed food may be risk factors.