Cancer: Millennials' Risk of Colorectal Disease Increases Sharply

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study Tuesday showing that after risks had decreased previously, the rate of colon cancer increased 1 to 2 percent a year since the mid-1980s for the 20 to 39 age group. If this latest research is any indication, the guidelines for screenings may be subject to change if additional studies also indicate the rate of these cancers are on the rise.

They found that people born in the 1990s are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer as people born in the middle of the last century. The American Cancer Society found that now, 3 in 10 rectal cancer diagnoses are in people under the age of 55.

And the long-term outlook isn't good, Siegel noted. "We don't know how long it takes for the effects of obesity to act on cancer promotion", she added.

But in 2012 to 2013, they were just 12.4% lower for colon and were equal for rectal cancer. Although the cancer is predicted to cause over 50,000 deaths in the U.S.in 2017, that number has been trending downward for decades thanks in part to routine screenings and an increased awareness.

It's important for primary care doctors to be aware of this trend and act on symptoms of colon cancer even in their younger patients, she said. I do see this happen in my practice and it can lead to a patient being diagnosed later on, with more advanced disease. "And even when they do seek treatment, there are delays because cancer isn't on their radar or the radar of their doctors", Siegel explained. They also advise people to avoid eating a diet that's dominated by processed meats, which some studies have shown could be linked to developing colorectal cancer and other bowel disease.

"So it would be premature to recommend the initiation of screening at a younger age", Chan said.

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"This new study would favour a closer look at whether screening should be done earlier", said Dr John Kisiel, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

"At this point, younger individuals should continue to pursue a healthy lifestyle - stay lean, physically active, and eat a healthy and well-balanced diet", Chan said.

Given the numbers, the authors suggest that it may be time to reconsider the age at which to begin colorectal cancer screening for people at average risk. Researchers from the American Cancer Society have identified a sharp rise in colon and rectal cancer rates among millennials and GenXers after reviewing some 500,000 cases dating to 1974. "These are people in the most productive periods of their lives, and they are often diagnosed much later, so there is a substantial risk of mortality". It has been increasing in that age group every year since the mid-1980s.

"Today, the American Cancer Society released a new study confirming the dramatic increase of colon and rectal cancers in those under the age of 50".

For adults aged 40 to 54, rates increased by 0.5 to one percent annually from the mid-1990s through 2013.

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