New Research Reveals 4 Red Flags for Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer

While it’s true that most colorectal cancer cases happen in people ages 50 and older, colorectal cancer rates have been increasing quickly among much younger people. Rates of colorectal cancer among people ages 25 to 45 has risen steadily for the past 30 years. A person who was born in 1990 is two times more likely to develop early-onset colon cancer and four times as likely to develop early-onset rectal cancer as someone born in 1950. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) was so concerned about the rise in cases of colorectal cancer among younger people that it changed its screening recommendations in 2021. The USPSTF lowered the recommended age for people to start getting colonoscopies to screen for colorectal cancer from 50 to 45. A colonoscopy is a powerful cancer detection and prevention tool. It can find evidence of cancer, and it can also find and remove precancerous polyps.

One reason colon cancer is so dangerous is that its early symptoms are easy to ignore. As a result, many people don’t find out they have colorectal cancer until the cancer has grown or spread to nearby organs, making it more difficult to treat.

That’s why this new research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in May 2023, is so important. Researchers studied the records of more than 5,000 people who had developed early-onset colorectal cancer (in other words, people who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer before age 50). They looked back two years before each person’s cancer diagnosis to find evidence of any of 17 of the most common colorectal cancer symptoms. They found four symptoms that were most common among people with early-onset colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer patients reported these symptoms up to two years before their diagnosis.

The four red flag early warning signs of colorectal cancer in younger people

Here are the four warning signs of early-onset colorectal cancer they found:

  1. Abdominal pain
  2. Rectal bleeding
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Iron deficiency anemia

Having one of these symptoms made patients almost twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer. Having two symptoms made it more than three-and-a-half times more likely, and having at least three of these symptoms made it more than six-and-a-half times more likely.

People should keep an eye out for these red flag warning signs. Report any rectal bleeding to your healthcare provider, and if you begin to experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, or iron deficiency anemia that lasts for more than a week, talk with your healthcare provider.

Have a GI concern? Contact Capital Digestive Care to make an appointment with one of our expert providers.

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@capitaldigestivecare Rates of colorectal cancer are rising in young people. New research found 4 red flag symptoms that were common in people with early-onset colon cancer: diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and iron deficiency anemia. Gastroenterologist and GI expert Dr. Matthew Chandler shares when to see a doctor. #CapCut #colorectacancer #gastroenterology #coloncancerawareness #guthealth ♬ Summer day – TimTaj