The Rise of Colorectal Cancer Cases in Young Americans

The Rise of Colorectal Cancer in Younger Americans

May 15, 2024 – Colorectal cancer rates have been on the decline for the past two decades, but there is one group that stands out as an exception: Americans under the age of 45. New research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2024 in Washington, DC, has revealed alarming increases in colorectal cancer cases among young adults.

According to the research, colorectal cancer cases have increased by 333% among 15- to 19-year-olds and 185% among 20- to 24-year-olds from 1999 to 2020. While the percentages may seem high, the actual number of cases among these age groups remains relatively small compared to rates in Americans aged 45 and older. Dr. Loren Laine, a professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine, emphasized that while the trends are concerning, widespread screening for colorectal cancer in young adults is not currently recommended due to the low absolute numbers of cases.

Despite the low risk in terms of absolute numbers, experts are keeping a close eye on why the rates of colorectal cancer are increasing in younger populations. It is important for individuals under the age of 45 to be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, such as blood in the stool, stomach pain, and changes in bowel habits, and to seek medical attention if they experience any of these symptoms.

Colorectal cancer is no longer considered a disease that only affects the elderly population. Dr. Islam Mohamed, lead investigator of the study, highlighted the importance of raising awareness about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer among younger individuals. The research, which utilized data from the CDC Wonder Database, compared rates from 1999 to 2020 to calculate the increases in colorectal cancer cases among young adults.

While the exact reasons for the rise in colorectal cancer rates among younger Americans are not yet fully understood, experts believe that environmental, lifestyle, and genetic factors may play a role. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including maintaining a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption, may help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

It is also important to consider factors that cannot be changed, such as family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and genetic mutations. Up to one-third of early-onset colorectal cancer cases are linked to these unchangeable factors, highlighting the importance of identifying individuals at high risk for the disease.

In response to the increasing rates of colorectal cancer among young adults, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45 in 2021. Dr. Mohamed suggested implementing more targeted screening approaches for individuals under 45 who are at higher risk for colorectal cancer.

In conclusion, the rise in colorectal cancer rates among younger Americans underscores the importance of raising awareness, adopting healthy lifestyle habits, and implementing personalized screening approaches for individuals at higher risk for the disease. Staying informed about the latest research and recommendations in colorectal cancer prevention and screening is crucial in the fight against this deadly disease.

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