Approximately 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer each year. A colonoscopy is a procedure that finds and removes colon polyps that can cause cancer. Most cases of colorectal cancer occur in people who are over 50, which is why medical professionals recommend beginning colonoscopy screenings at 50 years of age. However, diligent attention to gastrointestinal health should not be limited to the over 50 crowd. A new study finds that colon cancer rates are growing among younger populations.
In February 2017, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of a study spanning over four decades which found that trends in colon cancer rates are rising in the young adult population. The American Cancer Society has remarked that if these developments continue, diagnoses among people 20 to 34 years old will increase by 90 percent for colon cancer and 124 percent for rectal cancer by 2030. Among patients 35 to 49 years old, incidence rates are expected to rise by 27 percent and 4 percent respectively by 2030.
“When the numbers are increasing by 50 percent or 100 percent, it’s significant,” says Dr. Erik De Jonghe, a gastroenterologist with Digestive Health in Reno.
Colon cancer rates have steadily dropped among the 50 and over population in the last ten years, primarily because of strong colon cancer awareness campaigns targeting that age group. So, why is there such a sharp increase in young people being affected by this disease?
Unfortunately, no one can pinpoint a concrete reason behind this uptick in colon cancer cases among younger people. Dr. De Jonghe says, “Definitively saying one is causing the other, that is a step too far, I would say. We do not really know absolutely that is the case. Contributing factors are complex. Diet, lifestyle, obesity may all play a role.”
Although this study shows an alarming rate of younger patients developing colon cancer, the age of 50 is expected to remain the recommended standard as to when colonoscopies should begin, meaning young adults have to be hypervigilant.
When colon cancer is caught early, it is extremely curable. Research shows that patients who stick to screening recommendations have a 53 percent reduced risk of death from colon cancer. Millennials and gen Xers must be diligent about their health, including practicing a healthy lifestyle, watching for early warning signs, and talking to their doctors when things don’t seem quite right.
Possible symptoms of colon cancer include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, or a change in the consistency of your stool over a period longer than four weeks. Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool are also warning signs, as well as persistent abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas, or pain).
If you have any of the above symptoms or are worried that you may be at risk, Dr. De Jonghe and his associates at Digestive Health Reno can assist you with diagnosis and comprehensive treatment plans.
The knowledgeable health care team at Digestive Health Reno delivers the utmost level of care to each and every patient. If you have concerns about your GI health, don’t wait, call (775) 600-4717 or go online to schedule an appointment today.