Colon Cancer on the Rise in Young People

It may be easy to assume that colon cancer is an older person’s disease. All of the literature rightly advises us to get a colonoscopy when we turn fifty. Most patients and doctors don’t anticipate a colon cancer diagnosis before then. The truth is, thanks to screening programs across the United States, the incidence of colorectal cancer is decreasing for people over fifty, while it’s on the rise in young adults.

Early-Age-Onset Colon Cancer by the Numbers

Over the past few decades, people under fifty have seen a 2%–3% increase in colorectal cancer cases every year, especially rectal cancer. Younger patients represent 10%–12% of all colorectal cancer cases in the U.S., about 14,000 individuals per year. That’s more than cervical cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

While a family history of colorectal cancer is important to keep in mind and disclose to your doctor, less than 20% of these cases in people under fifty are attributed to a hereditary component. Diabetes is a known risk factor, as is an unhealthy weight. Researchers are particularly interested in how the environment and American diet affect this younger population. The consumption of more carcinogen-promoting chemicals and fewer healthy microbes is likely associated with the increased incidence of colon cancer.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A major problem with the younger population is late-stage diagnosis. They complain of colon cancer symptoms, which may be dismissed. Doctors are now investigating which complaints accompany these early-onset symptoms, so they can shorten the timeline for diagnosis and eventually treat patients before they present colon cancer symptoms.

Visit the GI specialists of Concorde Gastroenterology at any of our convenient locations to manage and improve your digestive health at every stage of life. Regardless of your age, if you experience prolonged rectal bleeding in addition to anemia, abdominal discomfort, or colon polyps, consult a gastroenterology specialist right away.

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