Revised Australian national guidelines for colorectal cancer screening: family history

Mark A Jenkins, Driss Ait Ouakrim, Alex Boussioutas, John L Hopper, Hooi C Ee, Jon D Emery, Finlay A Macrae, Albert Chetcuti, Laura Wuellner and D James B St John
Med J Aust 2018; 209 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja18.00142
Published online: 29 October 2018


Introduction: Screening is an effective means for colorectal cancer prevention and early detection. Family history is strongly associated with colorectal cancer risk. We describe the rationale, evidence and recommendations for colorectal cancer screening by family history for people without a genetic syndrome, as reported in the 2017 revised Australian guidelines.

Main recommendations: Based on 10-year risks of colorectal cancer, people at near average risk due to no or weak family history (category 1) are recommended screening by immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT) every 2 years from age 50 to 74 years. Individuals with moderate risk due to their family history (category 2) are recommended biennial iFOBT from age 40 to 49 years, then colonoscopy every 5 years from age 50 to 74 years. People with a high risk due to their family history (category 3) are recommended biennial iFOBT from age 35 to 44 years, then colonoscopy every 5 years from age 45 to 74 years.

Changes in management as a result of the guidelines: By 2019, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program will offer all Australians free biennial iFOBT screening from age 50 to 74 years, consistent with the recommendations in these guidelines for category 1. Compared with the 2005 guidelines, there are some minor changes in the family history inclusion criteria for categories 1 and 2; the genetic syndromes have been removed from category 3 and, as a consequence, colonoscopy screening is now every 5 years; and for categories 2 and 3, screening begins with iFOBT for people aged 40 and 35 years, respectively, before transitioning to colonoscopy after 10 years.

  • 1 University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital, Perth, WA
  • 4 Cancer Council Australia, Sydney, NSW
  • 5 Agency for Clinical Innovation, Sydney, NSW
  • 6 Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC



Mark Jenkins has a Research Fellowship from the NHMRC.

Competing interests:

Albert Chetcuti and Laura Wuellner are employed by Cancer Council Australia to assist in the preparation of these guidelines — Cancer Council Australia received financial support from both Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Government Department of Health. Mark Jenkins, Jon Emery, Finlay Macrae and James St. John received travel support from Cancer Council Australia to attend meetings for development of the guidelines. Mark Jenkins, Jon Emery, Finlay Macrae and James St. John are members of the Clinical Advisory Group of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program and received travel support and sitting fees.

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