When should a screening colonoscopy be done before age 50?

Although 50 is the recommended age to begin colon cancer screenings, it does not mean that younger people do not get the disease. Patients with history of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are at increased risk and need screening much earlier. Patients with a history of polyps are also at an increased risk. People who have unexplained weight loss, bleeding despite treatment for their hemorrhoids and a family member who was diagnosed with colon cancer or with irritable bowel disease (IBD) should get their screening colonoscopy earlier. For those with family members who have colon cancer, the screening scope should be 10 years earlier than the age the family member was diagnosed with colon cancer. 

Daniel Labow, MD
Surgical Oncology

Screening colonoscopy should be performed at age 50 for all average risk pateints. Perhaps 5 years earlier for African American decent patients.  

For patients with first degree relatives with a history of colon cancer, the first colonoscopy should be performed 10 years earlier that the age at diagnosis of colon cancer in the relative.

Certain hereditary syndromes are linked to earlier colon cancer and thus, those patients need to be in strict surveillance programs and often require colonoscopy earlier and more frequent that the average populations.

Finally, any unexplained blood in stool, (even if it only occurs once or twice), significant change in bowel habits and any symptom that does not make sense, it is always best to check with your doctor. If caught early, it can cure or prevent colon cancer.


Ajay K. Sahajpal, MD
Transplant Surgery
A screening colonoscopy should be done before the age of 50 in patients that are considered high risk based on a family history or a personal history suggestive of a colon cancer genetic predisposition.
Mark E. Chisam, MD
Radiation Oncology

Routine screening colonoscopy to look for early signs of cancer should begin at age 50 for most people. Your physician may recommend beginning these exams as early as age 40 if there is a family history of colorectal cancer, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, or other risk factors.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Screening colonoscopy is recommended for everyone beginning at age 50 (age 45 and older for African Americans) and every 10 years thereafter if all is clear. If you have a single first-degree relative (parent or sibling) diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps you may be at a slightly increased risk that may warrant starting colorectal cancer screening at age 40.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.