There is a new study that finds that younger Americans aren’t just getting colon-cancer diagnoses earlier. They are dying of colorectal cancer at a slightly higher rate than in the past decades. No one knows why or can guess what lifestyle or what environmental/genetic factors may be the case. Should I be concerned? What do we know about colorectal cancer and what measures can we do to prevent it?

According to The Seattle Times, a new study has found that colorectal cancer has been affecting many younger Americans, but no one knows why. Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society and lead author of this study, comments, “This is real.” She published this research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Associated (JAMA). “It is a small increase, and it is a trend that emerged only in the past decade. I don’t think it’s a blip. The burden of disease is shifting toward younger people.” The study finds that even though the risk of dying from colon and rectal cancer has been declining overall, the death rates among adults from age 20 to 54 slightly increased. It went up to 4.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014 from 3.9 per 100,000 in 2004. Dr. Thomas Weber, a member of the steering committee of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, comments, “This is not merely a phenomenon of picking up more small cancers. There is something else going on that is truly important.” No doctor or researcher knows what lifestyle or environmental factors are driving the rise in these cases. Cancers in the past recent years have been tied to HPV. Obesity is another viewpoint. A diet that is high in processed meats and lack of physical activity are both tied to increased risk, but research is looking at other causes. One study found that prolonged use of antibiotics during adulthood was associated with a greater risk of developing precancerous polyps. This is because antibiotics can alter the makeup of the gut microbiome. Scientists are trying to see if colorectal cancer emerging in younger adults are different than older people. Can these be detected and treated with the same tools? There is evidence that young people are more likely to have precancerous polyps that are harder to see and remove because of their location in the colon. These findings are important to the research and discovery of a treatment for finding reliable ways to detect colorectal cancer in young people. Most groups recommend routine screening at age 50, if not earlier.  The warning signs of colorectal cancer include rectal bleeding, bloody stools, unexplained weight loss, fatigue and digestive complaints, or irregular bathroom behavior. Anemia is also another sign in men.

It is important to eat a good diet with low amounts of red meat and to get exercise five times a week. Gastroenterologists in the Long Island area also recommend frequent check-ups with a doctor or specialist. This research and study allows doctors to recognize this trend and try to fight this risk.


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