An independent expert screening committee has recommended that colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer) screening in England should in future start 10 years earlier, at age 50.
Currently, men and women, aged 60–74, are invited for colorectal screening and are sent a home test kit every 2 years to provide stool samples.
The committee has now recommended that screening should be offered to individuals aged 50–74 using the faecal immunochemical home test kit (FIT); a new test that is easier to use than the current test and is more accurate in detecting potential cancers.
Anne Mackie, Director of Screening at Public Health England (UK) commented: “The risk of bowel cancer rises steeply from around age 50–54 and rates are significantly higher among males than females. Starting screening ten years earlier at 50 will help spot more abnormalities at an early stage that could develop into bowel cancer if not detected.”
The Health Secretary and the Public Health Minister have agreed the recommendations. NHS England and Public Health England are now designing a plan on how to transition towards lowering the screening age as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Public Health Minister, Steve Brine, concluded: “With the roll out of FIT as a new bowel screening test from the autumn – a much more convenient and reliable test – we have a real opportunity to reshape our bowel screening programme and potentially detect the stages of bowel cancer much earlier.
“We are now considering opportunities and taking expert advice on how a sustainable, optimal bowel cancer screening programme starting at age 50 can work in the future.”
The change brings England in line with Scotland where bowel screening is automatically offered from 50.