Colon Cancer: Not Just a Cancer for Older People
My Freshman year of high school, my grandfather passed away from colon cancer. It was a rough time for my family, as two of my other grandparents were also sick with cancer. But I remember that being the first time I had heard of colon cancer. It turns out that colon cancer has been an often diagnosed cancer; it is estimate that more than 135,000 people will be diagnosed this year and more than 50,000 will die. Thankfully, due to an uptick in screening rates, colon cancer deaths have decreased significantly in the 50+ population but there is still much work to be done to get those numbers down. With appropriate screening, colorectal cancers are both preventable and treatable. As such it is currently recommended that adults aged 50+ get screened regularly.
Unfortunately, researchers have seen an increase in colorectal cancers in Generation Xers and Millennials. In fact, a person born in 1990 has 2x the risk of developing colon cancer and 4x the risk of developing rectal cancer than a person born in 1950. Not only is the rate of the disease higher, but in many cases the diagnoses in young adults come late, causing more difficult treatment. Crazy right? Researchers are not sure what has caused this increase, but feel it may be due to the overall increases in sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits.
The good news is that even with this increase in the number of colon cancer diagnosis in young adults the overall rate is still low. In those in their 20s, the rate is 1-2 /200,000 people and 14/200,000 in all adults under 50. This is compared to the rate in adults over 50 of 234/200,000. Researchers, however, are concerned that these numbers will continue to increase in young adults.
What does that mean for us?
It means paying even more attention to our bodies. Colorectal cancers have long been thought to be cancers of the aging population but this new research is proving that to be untrue. Watch out the following signs and symptoms:
Blood in the stool
Changes in bowel patterns
While it is unlikely that you have colorectal cancer, it is definitely better to be safe. If, like me, you have a family history of the disease, make sure you let your primary care doctor know. It is also important to know that as African Americans we have a higher risk for colorectal cancers. The current recommendation is that we start screening at age 45, compared to others who start at age 50. Researchers are in the process of determining how these new findings should impact screening recommendations.
On this Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, let's make sure we change the perception of this disease and get the awareness out there.
For more information visit Prevent Cancer.
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