Rising Rates of Colon Cancer in Young Adults

pills, needle, stethoscope and colon cancer information document

The good news is that the rate of colorectal cancer in adults older than 50 years of age has decreased in recent years, thanks to efforts to promote earlier screening. Unfortunately, even as the incidence of the disease is falling among older generations, more people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their twenties and thirties. We at Capital Digestive Care have reviewed our data and have found the same disturbing trend of increasing cancer rates under the age of 50. ​

Researchers from the American Cancer Society took a look at the incidence of colorectal cancer over a 40 year period. They found that while the disease decreased in adults over 50, it actually increased every year in adults born after 1950. While they were not able to determine a direct cause of the rise in colorectal cancer in young adults, they suggest it might be due to sedentary lifestyles, lack of early colorectal cancer screening and unhealthy diets.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in the USA this year. Researchers say the incidence of disease may rise as more people are becoming obese. Because colon cancer almost always begins in growths (called polyps) forming off of the walls of the colon, discovery and removal of such polyps can often prevent development of colon cancer. In other words, unlike most other forms of cancer, COLON CANCER IS USUALLY PREVENTABLE.

Although current guidelines recommend that adults be screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50 (age 45 for African-Americans), researchers say the rise in rates among young adults may call for a greater need for earlier and targeted screening. It is recommended that patients undergo screening earlier if there is a family history of colon polyps or colon cancer, and that patients undergo medical evaluation and probable colonoscopy examination if any of these common symptoms of colon cancer appear:

  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Anemia

According to the National Cancer Institute, colon cancer is the 2nd deadliest form of cancer among men and women in the U.S. Again, please remember that colon cancer is preventable. By following the recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening, your doctor can find colon polyps and remove them, before they become cancerous. If you are having any of the above symptoms, or if you have a positive family history, we urge you not to wait until age 50; and if you are age 50 and have not been screened, please click here to schedule a visit at Capital Digestive Care.

Here is an excellent set of videos called “Not on Anyone’s Radar: Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults” from MedStar Georgetown, with whom we often work to treat our patients with advanced cancer:

Cancer Rising

Usual and Unusual Suspects

Hit It With Everything We’ve Got


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