Steve Halasey, CLP.

Steve Halasey, CLP.

Last month, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued updated recommendations for colorectal cancer screening, reinforcing its previous recommendation that adults aged 50–75 be screened for colorectal cancer.1 This recommendation continues to receive USPSTF’s highest rating—an “A” grade—indicating that the evidence is convincing that screening for colorectal cancer has substantial benefits.

Of the cancers affecting both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is easier to treat. But only a little more than half of the target population is up-to-date with screening.

Through the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, US government agencies and their partners in private and voluntary organizations have set a goal that at least 80% of adults aged 50–75 will be screened for colorectal cancer. A recently published study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the US healthcare system has the capacity to make this goal a reality.2

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer for men and women in the United States, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Djenaba Joseph, MD, MPH, medical director of the colorectal cancer control program at CDC and lead author of the study. “Screening saves lives. The good news is that our modeling shows that the US healthcare system has the potential to meet our national goal of screening 80% of adults ages 50–75.”

To determine if the United States could expand its screening capacity, CDC researchers used mathematical modeling to estimate the number of colonoscopies or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) that would be necessary every year to screen for colorectal cancer for 80% of adults in the recommended age group. They found that 5.1 million to 13 million colonoscopies would need to be conducted per year, depending on which screening test was first used.

The analysis also used survey data from facilities that perform colonoscopies to determine the number of colonoscopies that are performed in the United States every year—and to calculate how many more they could do. The survey showed that 15 million colonoscopies were performed in the United States in 2012, and that another 10.5 million colonoscopies could be performed every year.

For more about current practice guidelines and technologies for colorectal cancer screening, register to attend CLP’s upcoming webcast “Colorectal Cancer: An Overview of Risk Factors and Screening Tools,” featuring Francesca M. Ruggiero, MD, associate professor of pathology at Penn State College of Medicine. The registration page is available at

Steve Halasey
Chief Editor, CLP
[email protected]
(626) 219-0199


  1. US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016;315(23):2564–2575; doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.5989.
  1. Joseph DA, Meester RG, Zauber AG, et al. Colorectal cancer screening: estimated future colonoscopy need and current volume and capacity. Cancer. 2016; Epub ahead of print; doi: 10.1002/cncr.30070.