Published on June 20, 2018

Stamford doctor applauds as American Cancer Society cuts recommended screening age for colon cancer

By Kat Russell

STAMFORD — Early detection is the key when it comes to battling most cancers. But with colorectal cancer, early detection of cancerous precursors could actually prevent cancer from developing, a local surgeon said this week.

It’s one of the reasons the American Cancer Society (ACS) recently lowered the recommended screening age for those at average risk for colon cancer from 50 to 45.

“For a few years we’ve been seeing colon cancer in younger and younger patients,” said Dr. Shahzad Zafar, a colorectal surgeon at Stamford Hospital. “So, the focus shifted to what we can do to increase the screening for those people and really benefit them. Because up until now the screening recommendations targeted individuals 50 years or older, which means we could end up missing some patients.”

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the ACS, which estimates more than 97,000 new cases of colon cancer and more than 43,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women in the U.S., and ACS estimates 2018 will bring more than 50,000 such deaths this year.

Zafar said colon cancer takes time to develop and typically follows numerous warning signs, making it one that could easily be prevented if patients get screened regularly.