Age and Colon Cancer


It is easy to live under the assumption that being young means being healthy. However, we all know that illness and disease can occur at unexpected times and at any age. Colon cancer is no different. Age is a risk factor in colon cancer, but people of all ages are diagnosed with colon cancer every day.


Colon Cancer at Age 50 or Older

If you notice changes in your bowel habits or begin to experience symptoms of colon cancer, make an appointment with your doctor.

Although any person of any age can be diagnosed with colon cancer, 88 percent of colon cancer is discovered in individuals aged 50 or older. Therefore, being over the age of 50 is considered a risk factor for colon cancer.

Because of the increased awareness of colon cancer, colonoscopies and colon screenings are on the rise. The number of colon cancer-related deaths for those age 50 or older has been steadily falling over the last 20 years because screenings have been increasing.

Colonoscopies allow doctors to find and remove polyps before they even develop into cancer. Colon cancer is 90 percent treatable when discovered in the early stages, and regular colonoscopies are essential for early detection and treatment.

Colon Cancer at Age 50 and Younger

While rates for colon cancer in adults 50 and over is declining, rates for colon cancer in adults younger than 50 years of age is increasing.

As a result of the increase in cases among those under 50, the American Cancer Society lowered the recommended screening age from 50 to 45 for men and women at average risk in 2018.

No one is too young to be at risk for colon cancer, so it’s important to know your risk. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about when you should be screened. It is recommended that you have a colon screening before the age of 45 if you have a family history of colon cancer or advanced adenomas. Young-onset colon cancer is most common in the distal colon, the part of the colon right before the rectum, and often presents at an advanced stage. Physician-related delays have been estimated to occur in 15 to 50 percent of young-onset cases because of missed symptoms or misdiagnosis.

Educate Yourself and Know Your Risk

The best decision that you can make is to educate yourself and your family about the risk of colon cancer and to know that you are never too young. Colon cancer is not bound by specific ages, so statistics only provide basic guidelines for conclusions and recommendations. Whatever your age, you can ask your doctor about an Individualized Colon Cancer Risk Assessment. This important tool helps your doctor target your appropriate age for baseline screening and opens up conversation about colon screenings. The more comfortable you are talking with your doctor, the less reluctant you will be when the time comes to have your initial colonoscopy. It’s all about knowing what to expect.

Start the Conversation Today

Ongoing dialogue about colonoscopies and colon screenings is essential because there can be a great deal of uncertainty regarding an initial colonoscopy. Research shows that compliance in getting a colonoscopy is considerably lower in the 45 to 59 age group than the 70 to 79 age group. Therefore, we need to educate ourselves and our family members about the benefits of regular colonoscopies and the basics of the preparation and the procedure. Who wouldn’t be willing to undergo a test for a disease that is highly curable when discovered early?

Talk to your doctor about when you should have your first colon screening. It could be one of the most important conversations you will ever have.