Colon cancer rates rising among young adults

Colon cancer rates rising among young adults

Colon cancer isn’t usually a concern for those under the age of 50, but according to new research, it may become one. A recent study finds that this potentially deadly disease is rising among younger Americans.

The study published in the Journal of Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology found that the overall rate of colon cancer has fallen, but the disease is increasing in young and early middle-aged adults.

“We are concerned with the rise we are seeing in colon cancer patients under the age of 50,” says Dr. James Stinneford, gastroenterologist at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “The reasons behind it, and finding a way to get a head of it, those are difficult questions to answer.”

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. according to the American Cancer Society. Early colon cancer usually has no symptoms, and warning signs – rectal bleeding, blood in the stool, a change in bowel habits or cramping pain in the lower abdomen – typically occur when the disease is more advanced.

Researchers found that between 1988 and 2009, the biannual colon cancer rates rose by 2.7 percent among men 20 to 29 and 40 to 49. Among males 30 to 39, the increase was 3.5 percent.

In women, those 20 to 29 saw a 3.8 percent biannual increase, according to the study. For those in their 30s, there was a 4.5 percent increase, and women in their 40s saw a 2.6 percent increase.

In comparison, men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s saw a decrease in their colon cancer rates during the study period.

“The key to diagnosis is vigilance,” says Dr. Stinneford. “The symptoms are often ignored because the patient appears young and in good health. People must stay on top of their health, be in communication with their physician and track down these symptoms early.”

Current national guidelines set by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) recommend those 50 and older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. For blacks, is recommended that they start at age 45.

“When it comes to prevention, people should follow the advice of physicians,” says Dr. Stinneford. “You should get screened at 50 if you don’t have any symptoms or risk factors, but if you have a family history or a heightened risk profile, follow your doctor’s advice as to when to get screened.”

“Screenings are available, but people aren’t taking advantage of them,” says. Dr. Stinneford. “There are a lot of distractions in the world, and people have busy lives, but we need to educate people to come and have the screening tests. They are effective, safe and comfortable.”

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  1. At 67 my mother died of colon cancer. It was determined a tumor was growing for years before it was discovered. I kept putting off being tested and finally made an appointment with Dr. Marc Fine when I was in my late 50’s. If you heard anything at all that the procedure is uncomfortable, drinking liquids beforehand unbearable, etc. I’m here to tell you to forget about it! Dr. Fine and his staff, Lutheran General staff and the procedure itself was done in no time and I could have been right back to work later in the day. There’s no reason at all to put this life saving test off. Dr. Marc Fine (I told him he’s the “best”).

  2. I am not sure that insurance covers enough of the cost of the screenings. Anyway,
    that’s why I can’t have do it.

  3. I believe that there is a stigma behind colonoscopys that they are only for older men. I believe the younger puopulation should be educated on these facts.

  4. I am a 50-year-old female diagnosed with Colorectal cancer in December of 20016. Now I m cancer free. Dont ignore the early symptoms. stay healthy!!!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.