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Colon And Rectal Cancers On The Rise For Young People

First Posted: Mar 02, 2017 03:50 AM EST
Cancer Images
A doctor goes over a patient''s X-ray, screening for colon cancer. There is no single cause of colon cancer. Cancer of the colon and rectum accounts for 15 percent of cancer deaths.
(Photo : American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

Colon cancer has had a sharp decline since the 1970s and has been concentrated among people over 50. However, recent studies showed that today, adults in their adults 20s and 30 could experience it as well, in what researchers say was a "curious" increase at 2 percent per year from the mid 1980s through 2013.

Rectal cancer is an even bigger issue, with cases rising 3 percent per year since 1974 for adults in their 20s and 30s. Colorectal cancer, overall, has been decreasing in cases in older adults, thanks to widespread screening made available for patients.

According to The Huffington Post, colorectal cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level to those born in the late 1800s. That is, to say, it is dangerous for younger adults especially considering that colorectal cancer screening is not usually recommended until at least 50 years old.

There is no sure reason as to why colorectal cancer rates have increased for youung people. However, scientists did come up with a few theories based on past research. For instance, colorectal cancer is linked to excess body weight, cigarette smoking and even the consumption of alcohol and highly processed meat. Less fiber in the diet paired with a sedentary lifestyle links to a higher risk for the disease.

The American Cancer Society now estimates about 13,500 new cases of colon and rectal cancers to be diagnosed in Americans under 50 this year. It is expected that 95,500 cases of colon cancer and 40,000 cases of rectal cancer will appear in all age groups.

Rebecca Seigel, an epidemiologist with the ACS, said via her report on the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that people born in 1990 now have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk for rectal cancer compared with those who were born in the 1950s at the same age. However, overall, it is expected that the absolute risk is still smaller in younger people, but that "they carry the risk forward with them as they age."

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