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With cancer cases rising in young people, could earlier screenings help save lives?

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image of woman getting mammogram screening with nurse on the side of her

Cancer cases are increasing among young people, with rising instances of colorectal cancer in people under age 55 and cervical cancer diagnoses ticking up for women ages 33 to 44, according to the American Cancer Society. A recent ACS report shows that at least four cancers with cases on the rise are screenable, as is the case with colorectal and cervical cancers. And yet, the recommended screening age for some cancers is usually over 40.

As cases go up, we may see a shift in when people begin getting screened, according to Gary Young, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research. In fact, he’s said there’s already calls to lower the age of colorectal cancer screenings as cases increase in young people.

“As we see an increased prevalence of cancer in people at a young age, that can lead to recommendations from some to lower the age,” Young said. “(The rise in cases) is a troubling consideration and maybe at least part of the response needs to be to lower the age for screening.”

But the decision to begin screenings earlier isn’t as simple as it seems. These screening guidelines come from many different sources, including government agencies and professional associations, Young said. In general, screenings before 40 are mostly limited to cervical cancer. Guidelines generally recommend most women get screened every three to five years. Women in their twenties and thirties should also check their breasts for irregularities that may indicate breast cancer while people with a family history of colon cancer may also be recommended for screening before they’re 40.

By age 40 to 45, most people are recommended to begin colon cancer screening regardless of family history. The same is true for breast cancer: most women should get mammograms every year starting at 45.

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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