Colorectal Cancer Spike Among Young Adults Renews Focus on Prevention

March 12, 2017
new report shows the number of colon and rectal cancers has increased dramatically among millennials and Generation X adults, even though overall numbers are declining for adults older than age 55.
On Tuesday, researchers from the American Cancer Society announced that someone born in 1990 has double the risk of early colon cancer – and quadruple the risk of early rectal cancer – than someone born in 1950.
“Colon cancer is second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death, but it can be prevented," said Dr. Daniel Brady, a Mercy gastroenterologist.
The national decrease in colorectal cancer cases among older age groups can be attributed to the success of increased awareness and screening.  Colonoscopy can find precancerous polyps and remove them, preventing cancer.  In addition, when colorectal cancer is detected early, it leads to higher survival rates. 
Dr. Brady says it’s disheartening to see younger adults battling cancer. At this point, it’s not clear why there is an increase in colorectal cancer in younger adults, but the report suggests obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diets are likely to blame. 
“This data re-affirms the importance of lifestyle change that needs to happen in our society," Dr. Brady said. "We need to help people lose weight and manage their obesity."
In addition to the importance of screening, younger adults with a family history of colorectal cancer, or symptoms such as blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, or a change in bowel habits lasting for more than a few days should consult with their doctor to decide if it's the right time for a colorectal cancer screening.
Click here to download Mercy’s Colonoscopy Fact Sheet. March is also National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Click here for resources from the American Cancer Society and National Colon Cancer Alliance.
March 3, 2017, is “Dress in Blue Day,” which encourages a colorful show of support for screening and awareness of the cancer.

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