More young people have colorectal cancer than those in previous generations

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More young people have colorectal cancer than those in previous generations

21 Mar, 2017

A study released earlier this year in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported a rising incidence of colon and rectal cancers in adults in the Gen X and Millennial generations.  

Colorectal cancer most often affects adults in their 60s and 70s, however, there has been a sharp increase in the number of adults in their 20s and 30s finding themselves with the disease. Colorectal cancer in people younger than 50 years of age increased to 11% of cases in 2013 from 6% of cases in 1990, according to the American Cancer Society. Further data also shows that the rate of colon cancer has increased for every generation born after 1950. Scientists do not have exact answers as to why the sudden increase and do not believe it is linked to HPV or sexual activity as are cervical and anal cancers.

While colorectal cancer in young people is still relatively rare, care providers and patients must use this trend to at least consider colorectal cancer as a possibility when symptoms arise. Many young people who do have colorectal cancer do not find out until suffering from the late stages of the disease because no one considered it a possibility, assuming older people only get the disease.

Colon cancer symptoms include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, rectal bleeding, weakness and fatigue, or unintended weight loss. Building the bridge between colon cancer’s symptoms and an actual diagnosis can be difficult because the symptoms can indicate a variety of diseases, such as hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, or inflammatory bowel disease.

Current recommendations for colon cancer screening advise people to begin getting screened at age 50. Considering this report, experts do not recommend that the age for screening tests lower because the incidence in young people is still so rare that more screening would most likely do more harm than good due to inherent risks with the screening tests. For instance, colonoscopies, a common screening test, cause a perforated bowel in a few number of cases.

Rather, care providers recommend that young people pay attention to the normal rhythms of their body, so they can recognize when something changes. Young people should develop a familiarity with their stools, as well as find and build a relationship with a primary care provider whom they can come to with concerns.

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 PHOTO CREDIT: NegativeSpace –


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