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Colorectal Cancer Test Recommendations

Topic Overview

The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology and the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation recommend routine colorectal testing for people ages 50 to 74 who do not have an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer. People with a higher risk, such as those with a strong family history of colon cancer, should be tested sooner. Talk to your doctor about when you should be tested.

People ages 50 to 74 whodo not have an increased risk for colorectal cancer should have a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every 1 to 2 years. You may also be offered screening by a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which may be done every 10 years or more.footnote 1, footnote 2

For people at an increased risk for colorectal cancer

You will need to begin routine testing earlier than age 50 and have it more frequently if you have an increased risk for colorectal cancer. Screening for people at increased risk may include sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Your doctor will tell you if you need these tests. You have an increased risk if you:

  • Already have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with an adenomatous polyp or colorectal cancer.
  • Have had adenomatous polyps removed from your colon. This type of polyp is more likely to turn into cancer, but the risk is still very low.
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Have a rare inherited polyp syndrome, such as FAP or Lynch syndrome (HNPCC).
  • Have had radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvis.



  1. Leddin D, et al. (2010). Canadian Association of Gastroenterology position statement on screening individuals at average risk for developing colorectal cancer: 2010. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, 24(12): 705–714. Also available online:
  2. Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2016). Recommendations on screening for colorectal cancer in primary care. Canadian Medical Association Journal, published online March 15, 2016. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.151125. Accessed April 6, 2016.

Other Works Consulted

  • Levin B, et al. (2008). Screening and surveillance for the early detection of colorectal cancer and adenomatous polyps, 2008: A joint guideline from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 58(3): 130–160.


Current as ofMarch 27, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD, FACP, FACG - Gastroenterology