Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women, with an estimated 52 980 persons in the US projected to die of colorectal cancer in 2021. Colorectal cancer is most frequently diagnosed among persons aged 65 to 74 years. It is estimated that 10.5% of new colorectal cancer cases occur in persons younger than 50 years. Incidence of colorectal cancer (specifically adenocarcinoma) in adults aged 40 to 49 years has increased by almost 15% from 2000-2002 to 2014-2016. In 2016, 26% of eligible adults in the US had never been screened for colorectal cancer and in 2018, 31% were not up to date with screening.
To update its 2016 recommendation, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) commissioned a systematic review to evaluate the benefits and harms of screening for colorectal cancer in adults 40 years or older. The review also examined whether these findings varied by age, sex, or race/ethnicity. In addition, as in 2016, the USPSTF commissioned a report from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network Colorectal Cancer Working Group to provide information from comparative modeling on how estimated life-years gained, colorectal cancer cases averted, and colorectal cancer deaths averted vary by different starting and stopping ages for various screening strategies.
Asymptomatic adults 45 years or older at average risk of colorectal cancer (ie, no prior diagnosis of colorectal cancer, adenomatous polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease; no personal diagnosis or family history of known genetic disorders that predispose them to a high lifetime risk of colorectal cancer [such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis]).
The USPSTF concludes with high certainty that screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 50 to 75 years has substantial net benefit. The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 45 to 49 years has moderate net benefit. The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years who have been previously screened has small net benefit. Adults who have never been screened for colorectal cancer are more likely to benefit.
The USPSTF recommends screening for colorectal cancer in all adults aged 50 to 75 years. (A recommendation) The USPSTF recommends screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 45 to 49 years. (B recommendation) The USPSTF recommends that clinicians selectively offer screening for colorectal cancer in adults aged 76 to 85 years. Evidence indicates that the net benefit of screening all persons in this age group is small. In determining whether this service is appropriate in individual cases, patients and clinicians should consider the patient’s overall health, prior screening history, and preferences. (C recommendation)
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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.
Corresponding Author: Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, 130 E 59th St, Ste 14C, New York, NY 10032 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for Publication: April 12, 2021.
Correction: This article was corrected on August 24, 2021, for incorrect axis labels in Figures 2 and 3.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Michael J. Barry, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Michael Cabana, MD, MA, MPH; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Esa M. Davis, MD, MPH; Katrina E. Donahue, MD, MPH; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; Li Li, MD, PhD, MPH; Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH; Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS; Lori Pbert, PhD; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; James Stevermer, MD, MSPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.
Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) members: Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York (Davidson); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, New York (Cabana); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Davis); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Donahue); Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota (Doubeni); Fairfax Family Practice Residency, Fairfax, Virginia (Krist); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Krist); George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (Kubik); University of Virginia, Charlottesville (Li); New York University, New York, New York (Ogedegbe); Stanford University, Stanford, California (Owens); University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester (Pbert); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); University of Missouri, Columbia (Stevermer); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts (Wong).
Author Contributions: Dr Davidson had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings.
Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.
Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.
Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Additional Contributions: We thank Tina Fan, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.
Additional Information: The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without obvious related signs or symptoms. It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. The USPSTF does not consider the costs of providing a service in this assessment. The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone. Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision-making to the specific patient or situation. Similarly, the USPSTF notes that policy and coverage decisions involve considerations in addition to the evidence of clinical benefits and harms.
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