New guidelines have moved the recommended age to start getting screened for colon cancer from age 50 to 45, which could also have major implications for Madison-based Exact Sciences Corp., the biotech company behind the at-home colon cancer screening test Cologuard.
The new guidelines released Tuesday by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, made up of a panel of experts that develops recommendations for clinical services, add an estimated 19 million Americans to the age group recommended for colorectal cancer screenings.
Dr. Durado Brooks, deputy chief medical officer with Exact Sciences’ Screening Business Unit, described the new guidelines, which bring task force recommendations in line with American Cancer Society recommendations to lower the screening age to 45 in 2018, as “a win for public health.”
“It eliminates any questions and confusion on the part of providers or the public about when you can start,” Brooks said. “Everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet right now. Everybody gets started at 45.”
The task force last year continued to endorse Cologuard as an option for screening 50- to 75-year-old patients for colorectal cancer and, for the first time, it also recommended Cologuard as an option for patients ages 45 to 49.
Colorectal cancer is one of the nation’s leading cancer killers, claiming about 50,000 lives a year. Overall, cases and deaths have inched down in recent years, thanks in part to screening tests that can spot tumors early — or even prevent them by removing precancerous growths.
Colorectal cancer is most common in older adults and the task force has long recommended that people ages 50 to 75 get screened. But the rate of new cases before age 50 has been rising since the early 2000s. So the new guidelines say adults at average risk of colorectal cancer should be screened from ages 45 to 75.
“It’s not an old person’s disease,” Exact Sciences spokesperson Scott Larrivee said.
The decision, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, means most insurance plans would have to cover the screenings with no copay.
“I think the task force recommendations, because of its close link to insurance coverage, may increase the ease and availability with which younger individuals are able to access Cologuard or other screening methods,” Brooks said.
However, Brooks added, even before the new guidelines were published, about one in every three individuals who should have been up-to-date on colorectal cancer screenings were not.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on most aspects of health care also has caused an “extreme disruption” on cancer screenings, he added.
“There’s a big backlog of people out there who need to get screened and that was prior to adding in this new group of folks,” he said.
How often people need to get checked depends on the type of screening they choose. There are a variety of options, including yearly stool-based tests or colonoscopies that may be done every 10 years.
But about 1 in 4 people between ages 50 and 75 have never been screened for the disease.
Earlier this month, Exact Sciences announced the molecular diagnostics company generated about $402 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2021, which ended March 31, compared with about $348 million in the same period last year.
“The first quarter demonstrated Exact Sciences is well-positioned for growth today and into the future,” Kevin Conroy, chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Our Cologuard and Oncotype tests help people in need of answers, including those who have been vulnerable during the pandemic.”
The company anticipates between $1.69 billion and $1.74 billion in revenue during 2021.
Exact Sciences shares rose by 2.02% on Tuesday, following the task force’s recommendations, to $96.58 per share. That’s still down from $127.53 per share one month ago, but up from $83.09 per share a year ago.
Exact Sciences’ stock price surged last fall, rising to $131.12 per share in late October in response to both the task force’s endorsement of Cologuard cancer screenings for 45- to 49-year-old patients, as well as announcements that the company planned to acquire two companies specializing in cancer-screening blood tests.
Shares rose to just over $155 per share in February of this year, before beginning to drop over the course of the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces
Make no mistake about it: The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left painful scars. But this year’s Top Workplaces project shows that many employees across the Madison region remain resiliently upbeat and are clinging to their workplace cultures, even from a distance.
Celebrate the best of Madison’s local employers and hear top executives explain how they create and maintain their cultures of growth.
This year’s winners run the gamut from dentistry to financial institutions and engineering to software developers and many more.
Survey feedback from employees is the sole basis for determining Top Workplaces. And that feedback serves as the ultimate test of how employers are responding in the age of COVID.
This year’s top-ranked large organization, with about 590 Madison-area employees, UW Credit Union has made diversity a priority during the past few years.
Exact Sciences, which rose from a small operation to a growing force in cancer diagnostics, thrives on a workplace culture fueled by innovation, teamwork and a common enemy.
Teamwork, problem-solving and helping agents find success — however they measure it — drive the workplace culture at First Weber Realtors.
Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.
The ability of Kwik Trip employees to manage change was important to the convenience store chain’s success during the past year, as it expanded, rolled out new product offerings and dealt with COVID-19.
Here are the other top-ranked large firms in Top Workplaces 2021, rounding out a diverse mix of some of the area’s bigger employers and featuring a range of benefits that employees are able to tap into.
The Madison-based firm, which develops mass notification software to alert employees at schools, government office and businesses to emergency situations, strives to understand what drives high job satisfaction among its employees.
WPPI Energy president and CEO Mike Peters says communication is vital to the success of the Sun Prairie-based, member-owned operation that serves 51 local electric utilities with wholesale electric power supply, utility technologies and services.
Employees at Madison-based Ascendium Education Group have adopted the values and mission of the organization and appreciate the training that keeps them on the cutting edge.
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation values humility and customer service in a culture that has buy-in from CEO Steve Jacobson to the newe…
The disruption and chaos inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic tested the stability of First Choice Dental’s workplace culture.
The Top Workplaces winners among midsize companies reflect innovative styles to building corporate cultures that their employees embrace. Here’s a look at the other winners in the mid-size category:
When the pandemic arrived, Horizon Develop Build Manage president and CEO Dan Fitzgerald was certain of one thing: His employee culture, built purposefully and over time, would carry the company through all of the disruption.
When Jack Koziol started InfoSec Institute in Madison in 2004, he felt that workplace culture was nothing more than a corporate buzzword. Seventeen years later, he knows better.
In the past chaos-packed year, revenues dipped for the downtown advertising, design and digital agency — a result of the economic mess created by the pandemic — and the agency had its first layoffs in 20 years, while its staff was scattered to complete work remotely.
Being successful in providing customers with information technology solutions and services starts with a family-centered culture based on fun, gratitude and expertise at AE Business Solutions.
The Sun Prairie-based company, which specializes in servicing and supplying components for heavy-duty, off-highway equipment through 10 service centers in the U.S. and Canada, strives for transparency.
Although winners in the small-company category reflect a variety of missions, they share a common characteristic: They have built strong workplaces that provide stand-out benefits and flexibility. Here are the other winners in the small-company category:
Among this year’s Top Workplaces, employees singled out several companies for their extraordinary efforts in important phases of workplace life, ranging from leadership to transparency.
Businesses that suddenly found themselves in the midst of a pandemic that shattered conventional ways of working quickly discovered that a strong workplace culture was vital to surviving and thriving during the crisis.
We have no idea what the extent of these changes will be or whether this whole notion of “normal” will ever find itself back into our lives.
Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, spoke about what makes CUNA’s culture special.
Kathy Marsh, co-founder and vice chair of Musicnotes, shares her thoughts on the workplace culture at the Madison-based digital sheet music retailer.
Larry Barton, chief executive officer of Strang, talks about creating a strong culture at the Madison-based firm.
To become a Top Workplace, organizations instill in their team members a variety of values and approaches that keep their businesses thriving in the marketplace, their employees engaged and their communities strong.