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Experts say there are more screening options now for colorectal cancer. FG Trade/Getty Images
  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among adults in the United States.
  • Rates of colorectal cancer in people ages 20 to 49 have increased the past several decades.
  • Healthcare professionals now recommend people start getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 45.
  • At a meeting at the White House, health and business leaders discussed way to increase these screenings.

There was a real sense of urgency and purpose at a White House meeting this week that focused on how to get people to return to their pre-pandemic rate of colorectal cancer screening.

In May, as part of the reignited Cancer Moonshot, first lady Jill Biden announced a call to action regarding the nearly 10 million cancer screenings in the United States that were missed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, officials with Fight Colorectal Cancer (FightCRC) assembled a work group of colorectal cancer survivors, patient advocates, and business leaders at the White House to share ideas about this issue.

“We want to increase colorectal cancer screenings and we believe we can provide access for everyone if we think innovatively,” said Anjee Davis, president of FightCRC. “This meeting at the White House was the first step.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among adults in the United States.

Black Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from the disease than most other groups, according to The American Cancer Society.

While rates of colorectal cancer in older adults have decreased over the past several decades, rates are increasing in younger adults.

There was a 51 percent increase in cases of colorectal cancer in people between the ages of 20 and 49 from 1994 to 2012.

By 2030, researchers predict that colorectal cancer will be the leading cause of cancer deaths in that younger demographic.

Those statistics are part of the reason that healthcare professionals recommend that people start getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 45.

There was also a lot of attention paid at the White House meeting to liquid biopsies, which President Joe Biden has highlighted because these molecular tests can detect cancer earlier than traditional biopsies and are less invasive.

Liquid biopsy industry participants at the meeting included Guardant Health, Natera, Exact Sciences, Epigenomics, and Freenome.

“By bringing together stakeholders across the healthcare community including industry, patient advocacy, academia, and government, we can collectively address the key barriers to screening and ensure all eligible patients have access to life-saving innovations in cancer screening,” AmirAli Talasaz, the co-chief executive officer of Guardant Health, told Healthline after the meeting.

Dr. Alexey Aleshin, the general manager of early cancer detection at Natera, told Healthline his company was “proud to have taken part in this meeting with Fight CRC and diagnostic leaders. Together, we can raise awareness for colorectal screening and help all Americans benefit from early cancer detection, cancer prevention, and innovative treatment options.”

Dr. Paul Limburg, the chief medical officer for screening at Exact Sciences, said liquid biopsies will play a critical role in “enabling the earlier detection of cancer and help achieve the Cancer Moonshot goal of reducing cancer mortality by 50 percent in 25 years.”

Paula Chambers Raney, a colorectal cancer survivor and Fight CRC advocate, expresses optimism about what the White House meeting can help create.

“There are so many screening options available now compared with seven years ago when I was diagnosed,” she said.

“There is innovation out there. There is so much data that exists now. There is a reason for hope. This makes me even more excited to advocate,” Raney added.