Health of America report: Colorectal cancer risks increase in all generations

July 20, 2020

A recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a national federation of 36 independent, community-based and locally operated Blue Cross Blue Shield companies, study shows an increase in risk factors for colorectal cancer across all generations, especially among millennials. The trend among millennials could mean a significant increase in future diagnoses of colorectal cancer, emphasizing the need for appropriate timing and frequency of screening.

Patients at risk

Commercially insured Americans with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are at a nearly twofold increased risk for colorectal cancer. Likewise, those with diabetes or obesity are at a 1.7- and 1.3-times greater risk of getting colorectal cancer, respectively.

Report findings

Low screening rates lead to an alarming rise in colorectal cancer diagnoses in the future, especially among younger generations. BCBSA’s 2019 Health of Millennials report found double-digit increases among millennials for Type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis — prevalence rates significantly higher than in their Gen X counterparts at the same age.

According to this report, the primary reasons for delaying colorectal cancer screening are a lack of awareness of the need for screening, even if not symptomatic, and concerns about the discomfort of the screening process.

The report found that colorectal cancer prevalence rates increased by 50% from age 50-55. This confirms that people who delay screening until their late 50s or early 60s are at risk of missing precancerous polyps or detecting colorectal cancer at an earlier stage. Because colorectal cancer is predicted to take the lives of more than 53,000 Americans in 2020, a majority of whom will be over the age of 50, it is important to raise awareness for the prevention and early detection of the disease.

How we can work together to screen more patients

Increasing recommended screenings can help prevent or detect colorectal cancer at an earlier stage, which can improve the effectiveness of treatment.

Here are some of the ways we can work together to get more patients screened:

  • Use our new interactive tool that lets you track your patients’ screening rates monthly, to identify gaps in care.
  • Identify patients who haven’t been screened for colon cancer by using the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), which tests for blood in the stool – a sign of precancerous abnormalities or cancer. FIT tests are mailed directly to eligible patients. The results are shared with physicians once their patient completes the test and sends it back to the lab.

Learn more

For more information or to download the report, visit the BCBSA Health of America website. You can read the press release on the Independence Newsroom.

Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.