By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) -The American Cancer Association has a new recommendation that may affect you when it comes to colon cancer screening. They now recommend routine screening begin at age 45 rather than age 50.

The message: Colon cancer is not just a disease of older people.

The numbers: this year more than 130,000 people be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 will die from it.

Why the change in screening? Rates of colon cancer have jumped in people under age 50, especially in the 40-49 age group. Recent studies have shown that the risk of colorectal cancer is double for someone born in 1990 compared to someone born in 1950.

The reason:  We don’t know why but wonder whether it is obesity, diet, or the environment.

How do I get screened? The Society says people can talk with their doctors about one of six possible screens, from at-home checking for blood in the stool tests to DNA tests for cancer in the stools all the way to colonoscopy, among others. There are options.

colorectal xray1316404 Screening For Colon Cancer Just Got Much Younger

A doctor goes over a patient”s x-ray, screening for colon cancer. (credit: American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

What are the signs of colon cancer? Early, there are none. That’s why screening is so important. You may be able to detect a pre-cancerous lesion to ten years before it becomes malignant by screening.

Other, more obvious signs that there may be a problem include:

A change in your bowel habits

New or worsening bloating

Cramping

Blood in or on the stool

A feeling of incomplete emptying

A change in the shape of your stool.

One final note. Although these guidelines are general, they are not for everyone. Those with a family history or a history of inflammatory bowel disease such as Ulcerative Colitis may need to start much younger.

Screening is generally done routinely every ten years.

For more information: https://www.cancer.org/health-care-professionals/american-cancer-society-prevention-early-detection-guidelines/colorectal-cancer-screening-guidelines.html

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida

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