Colon Cancer – A Risk for People of All Ages
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute recently published a study based on data spanning over 40 years, and it made headlines. The research revealed that colon cancer incidence is rising significantly among people under 50, and that Gen Xers and Millennials need to be aware of their risk level.
The study concluded that people born in 1990 were twice as likely to get early colon cancer as their 1950-born counterparts and four times as likely to suffer from early rectal cancer. It’s a risk that will be carried forward, according to Rebecca Siegel, lead researcher of the study.
These findings raised alarm among medical experts. What if these trends continue? The American Cancer Society provided the grim answer, reporting that if they do, by 2030, colon cancer incidence rates will increase by 90 percent in 20 to 34-year-olds with a 27 percent increase in incidence among 35 to 49-year-olds. They also predicted that the incidence of rectal cancer will increase by 124 percent in the 20 to 34s (and by 46 percent among 35 to 49-year-olds).
The Colon Cancer Culprit
So, what’s the cause of this rise in colon cancer among younger people? Experts haven’t identified a definite culprit yet, but many have named likely suspects pointing out that as colon cancer cases have increased over those four decades, so has obesity. Could it be the prevalence of junk food in today’s modern diets?
However, many also bring attention to all that has been done in the last ten years to tackle high colon cancer rates in those over 50 and that little attention has been given to people with a family history or lifestyle that might increase their risk.
How High is Your Risk?
So how high is your risk and how can you go about estimating it? The first step should be simple; sitting down with your family to discuss colon health. It’s not always an easy subject to broach, but it’s a conversation that’s vital for your health. Your risk of colon cancer is appreciably higher (potentially, by 100 percent) if a member of your immediate family, your parent, child or sibling suffers from polyps or any form of colorectal cancer.
However, there’s more than just family history to consider when assessing your colon cancer risk profile. With experts speculating that obesity and junk food may be partly to blame for the increased incidence of colon cancer, it’s important to remember that a healthy diet and exercise are about more than looking good. These habits play an essential role in overall health and disease prevention, too. Another factor is a diagnosis of IBD (irritable bowel disease), which also increases your colon cancer risk.
Don’t Dismiss Symptoms
It’s easy to write off colon cancer symptoms as ‘nothing much’ and primary care physicians can be guilty of this themselves when symptoms are reported by a younger person. The symptoms can be quite mild, particularly in the early stages. However, if you are experiencing bloody stools, changed bowel habits or frequent abdominal pain, see a gastroenterologist right away. It’s important that you talk to a gastroenterologist who specializes in intestinal diseases. Doctors are familiar with the many ways colon cancer can present and its increasing prevalence in younger people.
Screening for Colon Cancer
Discovering that you are at risk can be daunting, but early diagnosis is straightforward. A colonoscopy is a simple outpatient procedure and if you attend an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), you can expect to be there for no more than 3 hours. For most patients, it only takes a few hours to recover fully and return to their daily routine. Another bonus of attending an ASC is receiving high quality care, including top-rated facilities and board-certified gastroenterologists, at an affordable price.