Published: Wed, March 01, 2017
Health Care | By Kelly Miles

Colorectal Cancer Rising Among Younger Adults

Colorectal Cancer Rising Among Younger Adults

Feb 28 Colon and rectal cancer rates among younger adults are on the rise in the United States, suggesting the need for earlier screening, US researchers said on Tuesday. They also have quadruple the risk of rectal cancer.

The study did not uncover a reason for the change.

With screening, colon cancer can be caught early, when it's curable.

American Cancer Society researcher Rebecca Siegel, who led the study, said that earlier work had signaled a growing incidence of colorectal cancer among the groups known as Gen X and millennials. For adults 40 to 54, rates increased by.5 percent to one percent per year from the mid-1990s through 2013. "This is largely driven by rates in older people who are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and a lot of it is because of the uptick of screening". For instance, rectal cancer rates were down over the 1974 to 2013 study period for those 55 and up, but grew 3.2% annually for those ages 20 to 29.

But these did not examine incidence rates by five year age group or year of birth, so the scope of the increasing trend had not been fully assessed.

And while the majority of rectal cancer diagnoses are still in patients over age 55, three in 10 diagnoses are in patients younger than 55.

Yet another study has found that colorectal cancer incidence rates are rising among young and middle-aged adults - two age groups that don't now undergo regular screening for the potentially fatal disease.

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The American Cancer Society is evaluating the evidence behind its colon and rectal cancer screening recommendations, and will consider whether a younger screening age is warranted, Siegel said. Since 1980, the rate has been increasing by the same degree among those aged 30 to 39, the researchers found. If this latest research is any indication, the guidelines for screenings may be subject to change if additional studies also indicate the rate of these cancers are on the rise.

It's important for primary care doctors to be aware of this trend and act on symptoms of colon cancer even in their younger patients, she said.

Opposing trends in young versus older adults over two decades have closed a previously wide gap in disease risk for people in their early 50s compared to those in their late 50s.

Previous research has found snacking on chocolate, biscuits and cakes could increase the risk of the disease - as could drinking fizzy drinks.

We need to delve into this population of young people and see if there is a specific molecular signature to their cancers or if there are any common risk factors, such as obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, which have been suggested.

"Lifestyle factors associated with [colon and rectal cancer] include excess body weight, high consumption of processed meat and alcohol, low levels of physical activity and fiber consumption, and cigarette smoking", the study lists. "We don't know how long it takes for the effects of obesity to act on cancer promotion", she added.

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