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Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults: Real Concerns, Practical Advice

POSTED BY: Donny Hodges

While most adults in their late twenties or thirties are concerned about starting a family or getting that next promotion, new studies are showing that when it comes to their health, colorectal cancer should be on their radar. 

According to a new study from the European Cancer Organization (ECCO) “colorectal cancer occurs in only 4.6 percent of patients who are younger than 50, the incidence of the disease has been increasing at a rate of 1.5 percent per year from 1992 to 2005 in this age group."The most dramatic increases have been observed in the 20-29 year-old group, where there has been an annual 5.2 percent increase in cases in men and a 5.6 percent increase in women, and in the 30-39 year-old group, where there has been an annual 3 percent increase in men and a 2 percent increase in women," 

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and while nearly 90 percent of the cases of the disease occur in people over the age of 50, new studies show colorectal cancer is on the rise in younger patients. Perhaps the most alarming find of the study is that younger patients may have a more severe diagnosis if their disease has metastasized. Being aware of early symptoms is more important than ever. Below is a list of early symptoms and some practical suggestions from Gastroenterology Consultants of Central Florida, Drs. Keith Moore and Aniq Shaikh. 
Risk factors you cannot change:

  • Age: your risk gets higher as you get older. There is nothing we can do about this one!
  • Family history of colorectal cancer - Have open and honest conversations about family health history with your parents and loved ones. Also, see this for great tips on why family history is so important:
  • Type 2 diabetes - Elevated levels of insulin and free IGF-1 promote proliferation of colon cells and lead to a survival benefit of transformed cells, ultimately resulting in colorectal cancer. All type 2 diabetes patients should get a colonoscopy before undergoing insulin therapy.
  • Certain family syndromes, like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC, also called Lynch syndrome)-See Family History above.
  • Having had colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease or certain kinds of polyps before - If you have had polyps before make sure you maintain your appointments with your physician. If you relocate establish a new primary care physician and gastroenterologist.