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Colon Cancer Rates Soar in Young Adults

When it comes to colon cancer, the illness is the fourth-most frequent cancer in the US and the second-most deadly. The majority of those diagnosed with colorectal cancer are now over the age of 60. Patients aged 65 and over make up about 55% of all diagnoses.

The Good News

Some good news is that there has been a 40-year decline in colorectal cancer occurrences and fatalities. Colorectal cancer rates have decreased for several reasons, including more screening and less smoking. Keep in mind that between 1985 and 2019, Colorectal cancer incidence dropped from 65 to 34 per 100,000 people in the United States.

While overall occurrences and fatalities have fallen, particularly among older people, young adult colorectal cancer diagnoses have climbed considerably. 

The Bad News

Colorectal cancer rates in those younger than 55 years old grew by 17% from 2011 to 2019, according to a new study. While death rates from colorectal cancer declined by 57% between 1970 and 2020, among those under the age of 50, they have risen by 1% every year since 2004. According to the National Cancer Institute, it has surpassed smoking as the primary cause of cancer mortality among Americans aged 20 to 49.

Even though African Americans are still at a higher risk than whites for developing colorectal cancer, non-Hispanic white Americans are more likely to be detected at an early stage.

Reasons For the Increase

Researchers think that eating a lot of fast food may change the mix of good and bad bacteria in the stomach, which is called the microbiome, microbiota, or gut flora. The microbiome of a person is made up of trillions of viruses, fungi, and other tiny living things. People with chronic diseases like Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease may have gut bacteria that are out of balance. Researchers aren’t sure what role the microbiome plays in cancer risk, but they think that bad gut bacteria may contribute to obesity, which is a major risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Other things that put you at risk for colon cancer are smoking and overconsumption of alcohol. Another risk factor is not getting enough exercise and eating a diet heavy in processed foods and low in fiber. Toxins and other environmental hazards may also have a role. Young adults may also be more susceptible to developing colon cancer or other types of cancer due to their genes or a gene variation they received.

Early detection and successful treatment of colorectal cancer require more knowledge on the part of both medical professionals and young individuals. Awareness and testing are key here. Contact our best-in-class gastroenterology department to get tested.