Public health researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have drafted a roadmap of sorts for the future use of precision screening in detecting colorectal cancer.
Current screening guidelines recommend people at average risk get a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or other test starting at age 50. The new approach, based on a risk-prediction model, is much more nuanced; less one-size-fits-all. It uses individual risk factors and genetic data to determine when someone should start screening for colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.
The model, which is not yet ready for prime time, recommends some people at high risk to start screening as early as age 40 and some at low risk to wait until their 60s.
“A roadmap is definitely what we’re laying out,” said Fred Hutch epidemiologist Dr. Ulrike "Riki" Peters, shared senior author of the study, published last month in Gastroenterology. “We have a very solid approach in showing how we can integrate environmental, lifestyle and [inherited] genetic data to predict risk.”
Peters' colleague and shared senior author Dr. Li Hsu described the study as “a very important first step.”
“It was a long road to this point and it will be a long road to go to the next point,” said Hsu, a biostatistician in Fred Hutch's Public Health Sciences Division. “But it’s exciting. We’re trying to project risk for developing this cancer more precisely so that we can make more accurate recommendations for each individual.”