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Colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in the world, is usually associated with older generations over the age of 50. In fact, routine cancer screenings are traditionally not recommended for those under the age of 50. However, according to a CNN report, there is an increase in the number of deaths as a result of colorectal cancer among young people under the age of 50. The problem is that since few people under the age of 50 go for colorectal cancer screenings, often times the cancer is only picked up in advanced stages, increasing the likelihood of death. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer-related cause of death in women and the second leading cancer-related cause of death in men.
Increase in colorectal cancer mortality over the last decade
The interesting fact from a study tracking the incidence of colorectal cancer deaths from the 70’s up to 2014 is that the incidence of colorectal cancer deaths is decreasing overall, but the incidence among younger people are on the rise, especially in the last ten years. An increase of 14% was noticed over the last decade. It is a notable increase in colorectal cancer mortalities, but no cause for alarm, especially since the colorectal cancer incidence rate among young people are still quite low. That being said, there have been several advances in treatment technologies since 2004 and this begs the question why these treatments are not helping to reduce the mortality rate among young people with colorectal cancer.
Another surprize was that the increase in colorectal cancer deaths is that it is more common among whites than African Americans. This is interesting since African Americans are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than any other race in the United States. This higher prevalence of colorectal cancer has been attributed to sociodemographic and sociocultural factors. Regarding the racial difference in increased colorectal cancer deaths among younger people, the cause and contributing factors could not be determined as yet.
Rectal cancer vs. colon cancer
Young people today have a higher risk of developing rectal cancer than colon cancer. Whether there is a difference in the mortality rate is still unclear and would need further study. It has been estimated that, by 2030, young people under the age of 50 would have a on in 10 chance of developing colon cancer and a one in four chance of developing rectal cancer.
Early cancer screenings
The important thing here is to catch cancer early on by not ignoring symptoms even though you are younger than 50. Symptoms include a change in bowel habit, rectal bleeding, dark or bloody stool, abdominal cramping, weakness, and fatigue as well as unintended weight loss. When these symptoms present itself, patients will do well to call a gastrointestinal specialist to arrange for a cancer screening, even if they are younger than 50 years. Many people are hesitant to go for colonoscopies, but if you’re showing symptoms of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy may well save your life. Doctors can prevent colorectal cancer during early screenings by removing polyps from the colon walls. The most common cancer screening tests are stool tests and colonoscopies. Stool tests are less invasive than colonoscopies and may be a more appropriate tool for cancer screenings for young people.
Reducing the risk of colorectal cancer
There are some preventative measures that could reduce the risk of colorectal cancers including maintaining a healthy body weight, maintaining a healthy, physically active lifestyle, and reducing alcohol consumption and smoking. The important thing is to catch colorectal cancer early on by not ignoring symptoms when they present themselves. Raising awareness among young people in addition to those over the age of 50 will help to reduce the mortality rate of colorectal cancer as it will be caught in the early stages of development before it has spread to other parts of the body. This study is another reminder that we need to take care of our bodies to prevent the development of potentially deadly diseases.