Colon Cancer Is Becoming More Common In People Under 50

First Posted: Jan 25, 2016 12:56 PM EST

More people under 50 are getting colon cancer, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that--despite recommendations that colorectal cancer screenings begin at 50--1 in 7 colorectal cancer patients are diagnosed before screening age. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death and the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Colon cancer has traditionally been thought of as a disease of the elderly," said study lead author Dr. Samantha Hendren, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, via Health Day. "This study is really a wake-up call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colon cancers are occurring in people under 50."

During the study, researchers reviewed data on close to 260,000 patients with colorectal cancer collected for the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results study between 1998 and 2011. 

From the sample of patients with cancer, close to 40,000, or 15 percent, were younger than 50. Results showed that these patients typically received more aggressive surgery on primary tumors and radiation therapy to hit their cancer before it spread. Furthermore, for patients whose cancer spread, 21 percent of younger patients survived beyond five years when compared to just 14 percent of older patients, researchers say. 

Furthermore, higher awareness of family history helped in lowering risk, as well as overall awareness of symptoms, such as anemia, frequency of bowel movements and a change in size or frequency of bowel movements. 

The study is published in the journal Cancer.

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