Almost 137,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year, and over 50,000 will die from the disease. These are sobering statistics, but they should not be surprising. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it is the third most common cancer among women and men.
Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center predict that in the next 15 years, more than 1 in 10 colon cancers and nearly 1 in 4 rectal cancers will be diagnosed in patients younger than the traditional screening age. For men and women who are at average risk, most doctors suggest a baseline colonoscopy at 50. For individuals who have a family history of colon cancer, are of African American descent or have multiple risk factors, a baseline colonoscopy is recommended before the age of 50.
Among 20 to 34-year olds, colon and rectal cancer is expected to increase by 90 percent and 124.2 percent respectively by 2030. The authors of the study cite obesity, lack of physical activity and a Western diet as major risk factors for colorectal cancer, yet they do not give a reason for the expected increase in the disease (Source: EndoNurse).
Colorectal cancer is not just a disease for the elderly; it can truly affect anyone. Because of the growing trend of young-onset colorectal cancer, the Colon Cancer Alliance launched a campaign called Never Too Young. This initiative is educating our country’s youth about the warning signs of colorectal cancer and the importance of regular screenings. Young-onset colorectal cancer tends to present differently than later-onset colorectal cancer and can be much more aggressive. It also can be much more challenging to diagnose because diseased tissue in younger patients often looks similar to normal tissue.
With increased education, we do not have to follow this predicted path. Trends can be altered by awareness and regular screenings, but we all have to do our part. How will you contribute to reversing the predicted increase in young-onset colorectal cancer? The answer is simple: educate yourself first, and then share the information with a friend:
Your knowledge and boldness to share with others will reverse this trend, one person at a time.