Bowel cancer screening age drop

The age for bowel cancer screening is to be brought forward on the recommendation of an independent expert screening committee. The aim is for more bowel cancers to be picked up at an earlier stage when treatment is likely to be more effective and survival chances improved.

Currently men and women aged 60-74 are invited for bowel screening and are sent a home test kit every two years to provide stool samples, but the new measures will see this brought forward to 50 years of age.

Screening for this new age group will involve using the faecal immunochemical home test kit (FIT), a new test due to be rolled out into the national bowel screening programme for 60-74 year olds in the autumn. FIT is easier to use than the current test and is more accurate in detecting potential cancers.

Professor Anne Mackie, Public Health England (PHE)’s director of screening, said: “The risk of bowel cancer rises steeply from around age 50 to 54 and rates are significantly higher among males than females. Starting screening 10 years earlier at 50 will help spot more abnormalities at an early stage that could develop into bowel cancer if not detected.” NHS England and PHE will now consider how to transition towards lowering the screening age as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

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