Cancer is one of the leading causes of death across the country today. And now experts say that colon cancer rates are actually increasing. Why are more young adults getting colon cancer today than before?

Reuters reports on colon cancer rates increasing.

New research shows that colon and rectal cancer rates have risen among young Americans. Yet the number of older people getting colon cancer is actually decreasing.

What did the study show?

“If the trends continue, by 2030 the number of colon and rectal cancer cases will roughly double among people between the ages of 20 and 34 years old and grow by 28 percent to 46 percent for people ages 35 to 49 years,” according to Reuters.  

How was the study conducted?

Dr. Bailey, is the study’s lead author, she is from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She said it is unclear why these cancers are rising among young people. However doctors cannot assume that a younger person is not probably going to have colorectal cancer.

Dr. Bailey told Reuters,

“You have to recognize that the incidence rate is increasing in young patients and you have to take their complaints seriously. If physicians evaluate younger people who have symptoms commonly tied to colon and rectal cancers, hopefully those patients can get an earlier diagnosis to improve outcomes.”

The National Cancer Institute predicts there will be almost 100,000 new colon cancers and 40,000 new rectal cancers diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014. There will also be around 50,310 fatalities from those types of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about one in 20 people will be found to have colon or rectal cancer during the course of their life.

What do experts recommend in order to prevent colon cancer? Reuters reports,

“Currently, the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people ages 50 to 75 get screened for colon cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. The suggested interval between screenings depends on the method - from fecal tests every year to colonoscopy every ten years.”

The scientists write in JAMA Surgery that thanks to more screenings, the number of new colon and rectal cancers diagnosed has been going down. This is due to the fact that doctors can remove unusual growths before they turn into cancer. However there has been other studies showing that the number of new cases being diagnosed among younger people is increasing.

What did the study find? Reuters explains,

“The researchers used a U.S. database of cancer cases from 1975 to 2010 to determine the incidence of colon and rectal cancers among different age groups. Overall, the incidence of those cancers for all age groups fell by about 1 percent during that period. The decrease was confined to those 50 years old and older, however. There were increases for people between ages 20 and 49 years.”

Scientists also noticed an increasing number of advanced cancers were being diagnosed among younger people. But despite that, people between ages 20 and 49 years made up only a small portion of the total colon and rectal cancers. People aged 20 to 34 made up 1 percent of all cases and those aged 35 to 49 made up around 7 percent of all cases.

What does the study predict for the future?

Researchers used a computer model to predict that the number of new colon cancers among people ages 20 to 34 will rise by 90 percent, and the number of new rectal cancers will increase by a whopping 124 percent by 2030.

“They also project smaller increases in colon and rectal cancer incidence among people between the ages of 35 and 49 years. The researchers can’t say why more colon and rectal cancers are being diagnosed among younger people, but it could be attributed to less healthy lifestyles; for example, being obese, not exercising and having a poor diet,” according to Reuters.

Despite the study’s results doctors are saying that this does not mean that all thirty year olds should be getting a colonoscopy – rather they all should stay on alert and simply inquire about it because it is different on a case by case basis.


Gerry Oginski
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