Are you at risk for colon cancer early in life?

Are you at risk for colon cancer early in life?

New research from the American Cancer Society shows a dramatic increase in colorectal cancer cases for Generation X and Millennials.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found three in ten colorectal cancer diagnoses now occur among people under the age of 55. Additionally, it is expected there will be 5,580 new cases of colorectal cancer in Illinois this year. That means about 1,674 people under the age of 55 will develop colon cancer in 2017 alone.

Yet, it is unclear why there is an increase in colorectal cancer cases among patient under the age of 50. Some professionals are seeing a correlation between the increasing rate of obesity among Generation X and Millennials because of their more sedentary lifestyles than previous generations. Other causes could also be dietary changes with lower consumption of plant-based foods and increasing rates of diabetes among this population.

“There are two very important things that need to be stressed regarding colorectal cancer,” says Dr. Timothy Laurie, a gastroenterologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “The first is colon cancer can be a silent disease, and the onset of symptoms can be an indication for a more advanced stage of cancer. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting colon cancer screening beginning at the age of 50 for the those who are not predisposed. The second is patients under the age of 50 be aware of the symptoms related to colon cancer, and visit your primary doctor or gastroenterologist for the appropriate medical evaluation.”

Colorectal cancer symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, a change in stool caliber, cramping and abdominal pain. Likewise, more troublesome symptoms include weight loss, lack of appetite, rectal bleeding and a low blood count.

Do you know if you are at risk for colon cancer? Take our colon risk assessment here. If you are categorized as high risk, schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

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  1. First of all, it is easy to blame everything on obesity. Many obese people do not get colon cancer throughout their lives. There needs to be better care management, particularly in cases where there are multiple physicians and no single physician is in charge. My mother lost her life to colon cancer with a great deal of pain and suffering at age 67.
    I think it was largely due to the inconsistency in care after her first remission and reactive management when it was found after a bowel obstruction 2.5 years later. She had multiple doctors and went to her primary care doctor regularly, it is sad that the disease was not caught until it was already too late. Even prior to her initial diagnosis, colitis caused her to visit her gastroenterologist regularly with too little treatment options for that as well.
    Colon cancer has less funding than the more ‘popular’ breast or lung cancers, much less medical treatment options, and less success with them. Surgery is deemed too risky in many situations leaving the patient hopeless and in extreme pain. No one should have to endure this terrible debilitating disease.

  2. I went to doctors in my home town for 2 years with gastro issues, had 2 endoscopies and a colonoscopy and was told every time that I had gastritis or an irritable stomach. Finally I went to my gynecologist and she found a 12 cm tumor on an ovary-metastatic colon cancer at the age of 48. Three and a half years, 30 rounds of chemo and 3 major surgeries later all of my scans are clear thanks to the guidance of my doctors at Mayo clinic. It is sad that all of my doctors in town missed my diagnosis for 2 years. These doctors also diagnosed me and treated me for ovarian cancer before it was determined that I never had ovarian cancer-it was always colon cancer. I have to wonder if I would still be alive had I not taken my case to Mayo clinic.

    • Sandy, I am glad that you are in good health now. Being so young it was sad that you had to go through so much but also age was on your side and you were able to handle so many treatments. May I ask where you went and received this false diagnosis from? I wish we went to Mayo Clinic but thought we were in the clear with no indicators that said otherwise. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Sandy,
    Can I ask what were your symptoms. I am having a multitude of symptoms and the doctor’s in area as well also seem clueless. Thanks for your story

  4. I had some bleeding for which a colonoscopy was performed. My doctor said she didn’t find anything and that is was probably hemorrhoids. I finally got to where I could hardly eat anything without feeling completely full. I had alot of stomach problems including nausea and abdominal pains. I was told that was gastritis after 2 endoscopies. I also lost 15 pounds during this time. I also began having alot of bleeding which my general doctor told me was menopause. I finally went to my gynecologist when routine blood work showed anemia. She was the doctor that actually listened to my symptoms and ordered an internal sonogram. She found what she thought was a cyst on my ovary. I had surgery where she removed the 12 cm cyst and found that it was actually cancer. That is when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which we later found out was not ovarian cancer but actually colon cancer that had spread.

About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.