A colonoscopy is a procedure for the early detection of colon or rectal cancer. There is growing evidence that a screening colonoscopy can not only detect colorectal cancer at an earlier stage, but that removal of pre-cancerous polyps may decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the future. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for colorectal cancer for adults between the ages of 50 and 75, and in selected cases for individuals between the ages of 76 and 85. For those unable to undergo a colonoscopy, other available screening methods include fecal occult blood testing or sigmoidoscopy.
The USPSTF also recommends offering screening at a younger age, beginning at 45 years old. For those with a 1st-degree relative who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, medical specialists typically recommend initial screening colonoscopy at least 10 years prior to the age of diagnosis for the affected individual. For instance, if one of your parents was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 50, you should have an initial screening colonoscopy starting at age 40. If colonoscopy shows no significant abnormalities, it should be repeated in 10 years.