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Colon Cancer Is Affecting the Young at an Increasing Rate

Young Colon Cancer

Colonoscopies are usually recommended beginning at the age of 50 because age is a risk for colon cancer, and studies show that colon cancer incidence increases around 50 years of age. However, this does not mean that all men and women under 50 are not at risk for colon cancer. Young onset colorectal cancer is increasing at a steady rate, and more individuals are being diagnosed in their 30s and even 20s.

Often, colon cancer has no symptoms, especially in the early stages. When symptoms do present, one symptom that is quite common is rectal bleeding. Statistically, most cases of rectal bleeding in individuals under the age of 40 is usually due to hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in the rectal area that can rupture and cause discomfort. Hemorrhoids can be recurring, painful and bothersome, but they are not life-threatening. If a doctor misdiagnoses colon cancer for hemorrhoids, the polyp or growth would continue to advance.

According to Dr. Allen Kamrava, a Los Angeles colorectal surgeon, the worst thing to do in a young patient is to diagnose their cancer later in life. Dr. Kamrava says he has seen many patients, who appear to have hemorrhoids, schedule a colonoscopy because of chronic bleeding and receive a diagnosis of advanced colon cancer.  

According to a new study in JAMA Surgery, colon cancer rates could increase by 90 percent and rectal cancer will spike by 124 percent in young people from age 20 to 34. For adults aged 35 to 39, the colon cancer rates could increase by 45 percent. The overall numbers of cases of young onset colon cancer is still low, but the rates are steadily increasing.

These shifting statistics make it imperative for doctors to look at the entire person and assess whether there are other risk factors that may further increase the chances that he or she has colon cancer. Some of these risk factors could include:

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Family history of colon cancer or colon polyps
  • Diet that is low in fiber but high in red meat and/or processed food
  • Being of African-American descent
  • Type II Diabetes

Multiple risk factors could convince physicians that a young patient should have a colonoscopy. Rectal bleeding should never be ignored, and it is important that a colon screening is scheduled. Some experts claim that people who have several risk factors should begin routine colonoscopies, but more research needs to be done to assess whether the new age to get a colonoscopy should be in the 40s or remain at the age of 50. Talk to your doctor about when you should get your first colonoscopy, and never be afraid to ask questions. Your health depends on it (Source: Healthline).

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posted on December 11, 2015 in news