Updated guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said screenings for colorectal cancer should begin when people are 45-years-old, which is five years earlier than the previous recommendation.

The rates of colorectal cancer, which is the number three cancer killer in America, have increased in people aged 45 to 50, Dr. Michael Barry, who is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and vice chair of the task force, told NBC News.

“We can make a substantial dent in that through screening,” Barry noted, adding, “Starting at age 45 can save additional lives and prevent additional cases by removing precancerous polyps.”

According to the Mayo Clinic Health System’s website, colorectal cancer starts in a person’s large intestine (colon) or one’s rectum:

It often begins as small noncancerous clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time, some of these polyps can increase in size, undergo cellular changes and eventually transform into colon cancer. Colorectal cancer screenings can detect the polyps early and prevent the disease from developing or spreading. One screening method is colonoscopy, which can help identify these polyps and remove them.

The updated guidelines align with recommendations the American Cancer Society (ACS) issued three years ago, the NBC article read.

“With the task force’s added imprimatur, colonoscopies and other colon cancer screening tests for those aged 45 to 50 are far more likely to be covered by insurance companies,” the outlet added.

The guidelines and recommendations were published Tuesday by the JAMA Network.

The NBC report continued:

The recommendations apply only to people who are at average risk of colorectal cancer — meaning they have no prior diagnosis of colorectal cancer; no family history of the disease or genetic disorders that raise the risk of the disease; no history of precancerous polyps; and no diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease.

According to the ACS website, individuals can be screened with a stool-based test or a visual exam.

“Colorectal cancer is most treatable when it is found early,” Dr. Felice Schnoll-Sussman, who is a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and director of the Jay Monahan Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine, said.

“It’s an enormous step forward in our attempt to protect younger individuals,” she concluded.

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