Cleveland Clinic — A new study shows colon cancer is on the rise for young adults. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the U.S. with about 140,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Recent research shows that while the overall rates for colon cancer are declining, the number of younger adults diagnosed is actually on the rise. James Church, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not participate in the research, but said that one possibility for the uptick could be that younger folks have the tendency to delay getting symptoms checked.
“What we’re noticing about young patients, under the age of 50 that get colon cancer, is in general, there’s an average six month delay between when their symptoms started and when the diagnosis was made,”said Dr. Church.Dr. Church.
Colon cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth in the colon’s lining, which takes time to accumulate, so the older a patient is, the higher their risk. Current recommendations call for colonoscopy screenings beginning at age 50. Only about ten percent of patients with colon cancer are younger than age 50, because they’re not being screened, Dr. Church said.
Often times the cancer tends to be more advanced when it’s caught younger than age 50. When colon cancer strikes a younger adult, experts believe that sometimes it can be attributed to genetics or other risk factors such as having inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. However, according to Dr. Church, there are a growing number of younger adults being diagnosed for unknown reasons. According to Dr. Church, colon cancer is completely preventable and the most important factor when it comes to prevention is awareness of symptoms. Any sort of bowel changes accompanied by rectal bleeding are reasons to see a doctor right away.
“Even if you’re young, even if you’re in your 20’s and you have rectal bleeding, even if you think it’s hemorrhoids, just don’t trust that-get it checked out,” said Dr. Church.
It’s important for folks to know their family history, maintain healthy lifestyle habits, keep an eye out for symptoms and if they arise, get a thorough examination. Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.