Colon cancer rates are rising. Making screening an employee benefit could help catch it earlier A new benefit by Color Health is making it easier for companies—and their employees—to detect cancer. Hasbro and the Teamsters union are already customers

 Colorectal cancer is now the leading cause of death among younger men and the second leading cause for women under 50, after breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

- More than 10% of new colorectal cancer cases occur in people younger than 50, indicating a concerning trend.

- Routine screening, such as colonoscopy, is the most effective way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends starting routine screenings at the age of 45.

- Early detection through these screenings significantly improves the chances of survival, with almost 88% of adults diagnosed at an early stage living for five years or more, compared to only 16% of those diagnosed with late-stage cancer.

Implications for Employers

- Employers bear a significant portion of the medical costs associated with treating cancer, with colorectal cancer becoming the number-one driver of large companies' healthcare costs.

- More than 13% of employers have witnessed an increase in late-stage cancers, and the rising rates of colorectal cancer are particularly concerning due to its high treatment cost.

 Innovative Workplace Cancer Screening Program

- To address these challenges, Burlingame-based company Color Health launched a cancer screening program as a novel workplace benefit that complements existing health plans, making it easier for employees to partake in testing.

- Employees provide information about risk factors, and if deemed at higher risk, they receive next-generation DNA sequencing to identify genetic markers associated with common adult-onset genetic disorders.

- The program then delivers appropriate cancer screening kits to the employee's home, including tests for colorectal cancer, HPV, and prostate cancer, which are then mailed back for analysis. Moreover, Color can also assist in scheduling in-person screenings, such as mammograms or colonoscopies.

 Cost and Benefits

- Companies pay an average of $150 per year for each employee who uses the Color program, including testing and follow-up, which is less than the cost for traditional fee-for-service models.

- Unlike direct-to-consumer models, Color functions as a telehealth provider, offering a comprehensive service staffed by licensed doctors and counselors in 50 U.S. states.

Employer Adoption and Data Protection

- Early adopters of Color's program include Hasbro and the Teamsters Health & Welfare and Pension Funds of Philadelphia and Vicinity.

- As a HIPPA-covered entity, Color ensures that data from tests is only used for health purposes and cannot be shared with third parties, providing a high level of privacy and protection.

 Insights and Future Outlook

- Early detection and prevention of cancer through advanced and accessible workplace screening programs can lead to significant savings for employers and enhance employee benefits, as highlighted by the administrator of the Teamsters funds.

- Ultimately, early detection remains the most effective approach for improving long-term survival rates for cancer, emphasizing the critical role of routine screenings and proactive measures.

The implementation of innovative workplace cancer screening programs like Color Health offers a promising solution to the increasing challenges posed by colorectal cancer and highlights the potential for substantial positive impacts on both employee health and employer healthcare costs.  

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