Screening for colorectal cancer: a guidance statement from the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 2012 Mar 6;156(5):378-86. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-156-5-201203060-00010.


Description: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women in the United States. The American College of Physicians (ACP) developed this guidance statement for clinicians by assessing the current guidelines developed by other organizations on screening for colorectal cancer. When multiple guidelines are available on a topic or when existing guidelines conflict, ACP believes that it is more valuable to provide clinicians with a rigorous review of the available guidelines rather than develop a new guideline on the same topic.

Methods: The authors searched the National Guideline Clearinghouse to identify guidelines developed in the United States. Four guidelines met the inclusion criteria: a joint guideline developed by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology and individual guidelines developed by the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and the American College of Radiology. GUIDANCE STATEMENT 1: ACP recommends that clinicians perform individualized assessment of risk for colorectal cancer in all adults. GUIDANCE STATEMENT 2: ACP recommends that clinicians screen for colorectal cancer in average-risk adults starting at the age of 50 years and in high-risk adults starting at the age of 40 years or 10 years younger than the age at which the youngest affected relative was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. GUIDANCE STATEMENT 3: ACP recommends using a stool-based test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, or optical colonoscopy as a screening test in patients who are at average risk. ACP recommends using optical colonoscopy as a screening test in patients who are at high risk. Clinicians should select the test based on the benefits and harms of the screening test, availability of the screening test, and patient preferences. GUIDANCE STATEMENT 4: ACP recommends that clinicians stop screening for colorectal cancer in adults over the age of 75 years or in adults with a life expectancy of less than 10 years.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Mass Screening / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • United States