Published: Wed, March 01, 2017
Medical | By Dorothy Lyons

More young adults getting colorectal cancer

More young adults getting colorectal cancer

"Our finding that colorectal cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level of those born in the late 1800s is very sobering", said lead author Rebecca Siegel, a researcher with the American Cancer Society.

Previous studies picked up increases in young adults, but the new study provided new age-group details from almost 500,000 cases reported between 1974 and 2013.

Among Americans in their 30s, rates of colon cancer diagnoses rose to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2013, from about 2.7 cases per 100,000 in 1988.

"Trends in young people are a bellwether for the future disease burden", said Siegel. The risk of colon and rectal cancers is skyrocketing in millennials, and here's how you can protect yourself.

Americans born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer than those born around 1950, a new study suggests.

The study looked at 490,000 people and compared incidences of cancer in five-year periods by looking at years of birth and focusing on five-year age groups to determine cancer rates and risks.

There are a number of risk factors that may lead to someone to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer at any age, and as this research points out, it's never too early to develop healthy habits to help prevent it.

They point out in 2013 in the U.S., 10,400 new cases of colorectal cancer (CRC) were diagnosed in people in their 40s, with an additional 12,800 cases diagnosed in people in their early 50s.

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In the mid-1990s, the rates of colon cancer increased in adults in their 40s (1.3 percent each year) and adults ages 50 to 54 (0.5 percent each year), the researchers also observed.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States and the second leading cause in men, according to the ACS.

The study did not uncover a reason for the change.

An alarming three in ten rectal cancer diagnoses are now in patients below the age of 55. It has been increasing in that age group every year since the mid-1980s.

"If you're young or even if you're in your early 50s, if you have symptoms consistent with colorectal cancer like blood in the stool, abdominal cramps, changes in bowel patterns, go to your doctor and insist that they follow up", she said. As a runner and vegetarian, she said she didn't see the need to undergo screening.

"This new study would favour a closer look at whether screening should be done earlier", said Dr John Kisiel, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

From the mid-1980s through 2013, however, the rates of colon cancer among adults ages 55 and up declined, according to the study. However, making these changes can take time, so it's important to educate younger adults and their doctors about the rising rates of the disease, the researchers said.

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