Colorectal Cancer Rising Among Younger Adults

Colorectal cancer

The rates have been increasing since the 1980s, and now people born around 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer as people born around 1950 did when they were the same age.

An alarming three in ten rectal cancer diagnoses are now in patients below the age of 55. The scientists behind the study hope that by increasing awareness, the recommended age will be reconsidered.

The outlook is so bad that experts say the situation compares with the late 1800s - more than a century ago.

She added that public education campaigns are also needed to encourage healthier eating and more active lifestyles, "to try to reverse this trend". For their study, researchers looked at cases of colorectal cancer in people over 20 from 1974 to 2013. After the age of 50, adults are advised to undergo the exam - which isn't so bad in and of itself, but the required preparation can be uncomfortable - in order to look for the early signs of cancer in the bowel. The disease will be diagnosed in just one in 100,000 people in their 20s compared with about 50 in 100,000 people in their early 60s, according to the study. In Britain, nearly nine out of 10 people with the disease are over 60 years old.

Still, no health group recommends average-risk young adults get screening tests such as colonoscopy and stool testing. But the fact that the increases occurred as the nation grew heavier suggests that "there are likely complex interactions going on between physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and excess body weight", Siegel said. A high alcohol intake and smoking has also been linked with the disease.

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If you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, please pick up your free colorectal screening kit at Community Oncology Center, located on the west side of the Main Campus at 3500 South Lafountain in Kokomo.

In general, rectal cancer rates in adults age 55 and older have been declining for the past four decades.

So Dr Siegel and colleagues used a computer programme known as "age-period-cohort modelling" to disentangle factors that influence all ages, such as changes in medical practice, from those that vary by generation, typically due to changes in behaviour.

Although overall rates of colon cancer started decreasing in 1974, in the mid-1980s the rates started rising 1 percent to 2 percent a year among people aged 20 to 39, the researchers found. For adults between 40 and 54, rates increased by two percent from the 1990s to 2013.

Rectal cancer incidence rates have been increasing even longer and faster, rising about 3% per year from 1974 to 2013 among 20 to 29 year olds and from 1980 in those aged 30 to 39. In adults 40 to 54, rates increased by 0.5 to one per cent per a year from the mid-1990s through 2013.

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Conversely, in adults 55 and over, rates of rectal cancer have generally been declining for at least 40 years, even before widespread screening.

Siegel said the timing of this colorectal cancer trend parallels that of the obesity trend in the U.S.

That means more people getting colon and rectal cancers today "are in their most productive years", Siegel said.

For rectal cancer, the changes in the rates were more pronounced, the study said.

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