Hereditary colorectal cancers more common in young adults
While hereditary colorectal cancers caused by inherited gene mutations are relatively rare and only account for about 5 percent of all colon cancer cases, a recent study found that more than 33 percent of cases diagnosed before age 35 are hereditary.
Although those diagnosed with colon cancer under the age of 35 make up a very small portion of the cases (1.5 percent), experts say the findings are valuable because they highlight the importance of early screening, detection, and treatment.
“Anybody over the age of 50 is recommended to have a colonoscopy, but there are certain patients who should have a colonoscopy before the age of 50,” says Dr. Lesley Dawravoo, gastroenterologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “That would include anyone who has a family history of colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., but it can be preventable by having a colonoscopy.”
The lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 20, according to the American Cancer Society. Over 90,000 new cases are expected this year.
“A lot of patients put off having a colonoscopy because they don’t know a lot about the process or maybe they’ve heard someone speak negatively about the procedure,” Dr. Dawravoo says. “Only 65 percent of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 50 and 75 are up to date with their colorectal cancer screenings.”
Dr. Dawravoo recommends not only talking to a primary care physician about a screening, but also consulting with a gastroenterologist to get more information about colorectal cancer and the colonoscopy procedure.
“I’ve often found that this allows patients to obtain all the relevant information about the screening and more importantly alleviate the fear of the unknown,” she says.
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