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- A new study found that the proportion of people under 50 who had been diagnosed with colon cancer increased from 10% in 2004 to 12.2% in 2015.
- The rates of bowel cancer among young people have been increasing for decades.
- Although the cause of the increase is unclear, changes in genetics, diet, and intestinal bacteria may be involved.
- It is important for youth to make informed screening decisions and understand the warning signs of colorectal cancer.
- Visit the INSIDER homepage for more.
If you are 20, 30 or 40 years old, colon cancer may not be a major concern. But research indicating that you should not wait 50 or older to take into account your risk continues to increase.
The latest study, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer, found that the proportion of patients under 50 years old diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which included cancers of the colon and rectum, increased from 10% in 2004 to 12.2% in 2015. the most recent year data was available. The researchers examined data from the national cancer database, including the more than one million new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in total during this period.
The study also found that younger adults tended to be diagnosed at more advanced stages of the disease: 51.6% of those under 50 were diagnosed with stages three or four, while only 40% people over 50 had been diagnosed at these later stages.
This is not the first time researchers have recognized this trend: Last year, similar data published by the American Cancer Society showed that rectal cancer rates among 20- to 49-year-olds had almost doubled between 1991 and 2014, has already reported INSIDER.
"Several studies have shown that colorectal cancer rates in young adults have been slowly increasing in the United States since the 1970s, but for practicing physicians, it appears that we are seeing more and more young people with colorectal cancer now even 10 years ago. "Two years ago," the author of the study, Dr. Boone Goodgame of the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement released at the same time that the current study.
Genetics, diet and intestinal bacteria can contribute to the increase
Experts do not know what causes colon cancer more frequently in young people, but it is clear that there is not one cause.
Previous research has shown that diets rich in red and processed, low-fiber meats are linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer, and that diets rich in meat, such as Paleo and Keto, n & # 39; 39, do not help, Tamara Duker Freuman, dietitian approved gastrointestinal problems, told INSIDER.
"So many of these low carb diets are the classic example of a diet promoting colon cancer, and the benefits of a short-term weight loss can distract people from potential long-term risks associated with diets rich in meat and fiber, "she says.
Read more: 10 dangers of a diet low in fiber, from constipation to colon cancer
Obesity is also a risk factor for colorectal cancer, and these rates increase in parallel. A study published in 2017 in the journal of the National Cancer Institute and dealing with the evolution of disease rates revealed that, even though young people who develop these cancers tend to drink and smoke less than older generations, their rate of obesity is higher.
Other factors such as access to health care resources and changes in intestinal bacteria (due in part to the use of antibiotics) may also help explain new data. A large British study has found a strong association between the use of oral antibiotics over the past 10 years and the diagnosis of colon cancer.
Neither should genetics be neglected: "The number of colorectal cancer cases of hereditary cause is much higher in younger people," said Dr. Chyke Doubeni of the University of Pennsylvania in an accompanying commentary the recent study.
Other risk factors for colon cancer, regardless of age, include alcohol and tobacco use; history of type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease; and the African-American heritage.
Age is also a major factor. While the current study is rightly ringing, you're still far more likely to get colon cancer after 50 years than before, said Dr. David Greenwald, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at the faculty of Mount Sinai medicine, Icahn.
"The most important factors associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer include aging and a genetic predisposition to colorectal cancer."
Know the warning signs and screening options
Screening recommendations vary. The American Cancer Society recommends that at-risk adults aged 45 years and older be screened regularly, either by colonoscopy or stool testing. The US Prevention Services Working Group, on the other hand, strongly recommends screening for people over 50 years of age.
When you start screening, you must decide with a doctor, who can help you weigh the risks and benefits according to your own risk factors.
If colorectal cancer is common in your family, it's a good idea to get tested earlier. If you do not have any risk factors, it may be better to wait because the screenings are not foolproof and can cause healthy people to undergo unnecessary tests and, in some cases, treatments. causing their own side effects.
Apart from screening, it is important for young people, in particular, to be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, Greenwald said. "It is very clear that the signs and symptoms that may indicate rectal colorectal cancer in children under 50 years of age, particularly rectal bleeding, should be evaluated promptly by a health professional and should not be considered" only hemorrhoids "or" normal "," he said. .