Nov 19, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Colorectal cancer is often thought of as a disease that older people get, but that may be changing.

Research conducted by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston notes an alarming increase in new diagnoses of colorectal cancers among people between ages 20 and 49.

In fact, new diagnoses have grown fastest in adults ages 20 to 34. If trends hold, by 2030, the rate of new diagnoses among patients in this age group will increase 90% for colon cancers and an astonishing 124% for rectal cancers.

The study notes that further research is needed to determine why the incidence has increased among young people, but the obesity epidemic is the prime suspect.

“The great issue is likely our worsening nutrition and diets that are leading to both the increase in obesity and cancer. Eating highly processed foods and foods that increase inflammation are both likely sources for the increase,” explains Rick Henriksen, MD, MPP, director of the primary care track and family medicine clerkship at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Daily lifestyle changes are the most important thing you can do now to stay healthy.

“Eat natural foods rather than packaged foods,” Henriksen advises.

And do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you notice any of these warning signs: blood in the stool, bloating and constipation.

Screening for colorectal cancer is standard for people older than 50, and Henriksen encourages all adults over 50 to be screened. The most common test is a colonoscopy. Thanks to greater awareness and screening, colorectal cancer rates for the 50-plus age group decreased by roughly 1% each year between 1975 and 2010.

Screening for people younger than 50 is only recommended for those with a family history of colon cancer or polyps, which are abnormal growths in the intestinal lining. But that may change. We may see more widespread testing recommendations if incidence of colorectal cancer keeps climbing. The researchers behind the study support more screenings.

colon cancer colorectal cancer

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