Colonoscopy Protects Against Colon Cancer for 10 Years

A new study says colonoscopy offers at least ten years of protection against colon cancer mortality.

Colon cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer death in the United States, but it is preventable with routine colon cancer screenings. According to the American Cancer society, about half  of all colon cancer mortality in the U.S. could be prevented if all adults scheduled timely colon cancer screenings.

Colonoscopy Reduces Colon Cancer Risk

There are many types of colon cancer screenings, but colonoscopy is the most effective method because it is the only test that can detect and remove colon cancer in the same procedure. Under current guidelines, patients who have a colonoscopy with normal findings should get screened again in ten years. However, is this still the best method for preventing colon cancer?

According to Jeffery K. Lee, M.D., MAS, patients should feel confident about the current recommendation of a minimum ten-year interval between colonoscopies with normal findings. Dr. Lee and colleagues examined data from a large-scale study that included more than 1.2 million individuals to assess when patients should schedule their next screening following a normal colonoscopy.

For patients who declined colonoscopy, colon cancer incidence and colon cancer-related death increased proportionally with follow-up time. Patients who chose regular colonoscopies had very favorable results. Average risk patients with normal colonoscopy test results were 46 percent less likely to develop colon cancer and 88 percent less likely to die of colon cancer when screened at recommended ten-year intervals.

“A minimum colorectal rescreening interval should be conducted at 10 years or possibly longer after a normal colonoscopy,” said Dr. Lee (Physicians Weekly ).

When Should I Get Screened for Colon Cancer?

Your colon cancer screening interval depends on your risk for colon cancer. In May 2018, the American Cancer Society revised its colon cancer screening recommendations, suggesting all adults at average risk for colorectal cancer should schedule an initial screening at age 45 instead of age 50. The ACS altered the guideline because young-onset colon cancer incidence continues to increase, and this type of cancer tends to be aggressive and difficult to diagnose among the young.

Certain risk factors may increase your risk for colon cancer. Some of these risk factors  include:

  • Age
  • Polyps (growths inside the colon and rectum) that may become cancerous
  • A high-fat diet
  • Family history of colon cancer or polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases involving the colon
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Radiation therapy for cancer

When and How Often Should I Get Screened?

The best way to prevent colon cancer is to stay in regular contact with your primary care physician and your gastroenterologist. Your risk for colon cancer is unique to you. Ethnicity, family history and lifestyle habits influence your colon cancer risk, and these factors could influence your recommended colonoscopy interval.

After making an appointment with your GI doctor, call your insurance provider. Many insurance plans will not pay for a colonoscopy until 50 years of age, so call your provider to get the most up-to-date information about your policy. If you are at higher risk for colon cancer, your doctor may encourage you to get screened earlier. Keep in mind that a colon cancer screening today can prevent your risk of expensive medical bills in the future.