Early-onset colorectal cancer incidence is increasing most rapidly in Western states, where healthy lifestyles are typical, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This goes against the established belief that risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity have contributed to the rise of colon cancer incidence.
Although colon cancer incidence and death rates are decreasing among Americans over 50, colon cancer in young adults is increasing. According to the Mayo Clinic, ten percent of colorectal cancer cases (11 percent of colon cancer and 18 percent of rectal cancer) occur in individuals under 50. What colorectal cancer causes are being missed?
Researchers at the American Cancer Society and The Ohio State University examined changes in colon cancer incidence and risk factors among Americans under 50 from 1995 to 2015. They organized data by state and ethnicity.
The increase in colon cancer incidence was mainly in Caucasian Americans, and it varied in magnitude across states. In the most recent data decade (2006-2015), colon cancer incidence increased by an average of 1.1 percent per year. Ten states exceeded a 2.5% increase, and six of those states were in the West. Colon cancer incidence increased by 73 percent in Washington and 57 percent in Colorado.
Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH, is the American Cancer Society scientific director of surveillance research and lead author of the study. She observed, "Although early-onset colorectal cancer incidence is currently lowest in Western states and highest in Southern states, consistent with the prevalence of established risk factors, like obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking, this pattern may change because the steepest increases are in Western states.”
Previous research attributed the increase in young-onset colon cancer to limited screening use, lack of recognition of key symptoms and unhealthy habits among the young. However, this new study provides some surprising data. Siegel adds, "This finding suggests that early life exposures in addition to the 'usual suspects ' may be contributing to the rise in early-onset disease. Future studies should explore novel risk factors for colorectal cancer in young adults" (Medical Express).
Why is young-onset colon cancer such a threat? The answer is: because no one is looking for it. Here are five reasons why young-onset colon cancer is so dangerous:
You’re never too young for colon cancer. The best gift you can give yourself and your family is to educate yourself about the risk factors and symptoms of colon cancer.
If you have a family history of colon cancer, or you are experiencing symptoms, call a GI specialist today. Young people with colon cancer symptoms are more likely to wait at least six months to visit their doctor. Click here to find a gastroenterologist in your area.