A study in Austria suggests that men tend to develop advanced adenomas (colon polyps that may become cancerous) at an earlier age than women, and may benefit from earlier colorectal cancer screening. These results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. For people at average risk of colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that routine screening begin at age 50. Recommended options for screening include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, double-contrast barium enema, fecal occult blood tests, fecal immunochemical tests, and stool DNA tests. In addition to detecting cancer at an early stage, colorectal cancer screening can also help to prevent the development of colorectal cancer; some screening tests can identify precancerous polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous.
To evaluate the how the frequency of polyps and cancer varies by age among men and women, researchers in Austria collected information about more than 44,000 people who had participated in a national screening colonoscopy program.
- In each of the age groups evaluated, men who more likely to have colon polyps than women.
- Among 50-54 year olds, advanced adenomas were detected in 5% of men and 2.9% of women.
- The prevalence of advanced adenomas among men in their late 40s was similar to that of women in their late 50s.
These results suggest that men tend to develop advanced adenomas at an earlier age than women. It may therefore make sense for men to begin colorectal cancer screening at an earlier age than women.
Both men and women are advised to talk with their healthcare providers about recommended approaches to colorectal cancer screening. Individuals at high risk for colorectal cancer are typically advised to begin screening at a younger age than average-risk individuals.
Reference: Ferlitsch M, Reinhart K, Pramhas S et al. Sex-specific prevalence of adenomas, advanced adenomas, and colorectal cancer in individuals undergoing screening colonoscopy. JAMA. 2011;306:1352-1358.
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