A new law aims to screen more Arkansans for colorectal cancer, which is the fourth leading cancer in terms of rates of new cases reported and deaths, both nationwide and in Arkansas.
On April 21, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law Act 779 of 2021, which will lower the age range for covered colorectal cancer preventive screenings from 50 and above to 45 and above, effective Jan. 1, 2022. The new law will also prohibit cost-sharing for a follow-up colonoscopy — a colonoscopy performed after a positive or abnormal result from a non-colonoscopy colorectal cancer screening test, such as a fecal immunochemical test, Cologuard, or a high-sensitivity guaiac fecal occult blood test. The law will apply to most individual and group insurance policies, including those covering Medicaid expansion beneficiaries through the Arkansas Works program and the state and public school employee health benefit plan.
In 2018, 33.4% of Arkansans ages 50 to 75 were not screened as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
The age-adjusted incidence rate of any stage colorectal cancer in Arkansas from 2013 to 2017 was 44.1 per 100,000 persons, higher than the U.S. rate of 38.4 per 100,000 persons. Arkansas counties with the highest rates included:
- Dallas County: 69.8 per 100,000 persons
- Cross County: 67.6 per 100,000 persons
- Phillips County: 61.9 per 100,000 persons
- Arkansas County: 61.8 per 100,000 persons
- Drew County: 61.1 per 100,000 persons
Act 779 aligns with the USPSTF’s updated recommendation released May 18. The addition of persons ages 45 to 49 to the colorectal cancer screening recommendation is important, according to the USPSTF, as the U.S. has seen a nearly 15% increase in colorectal cancer incidence among persons ages 40 to 49 from 2000‒2002 to 2014‒2016.