Recent studies have shown an increasing rate of people under 50 years old in the United States being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. A person born in 1990 has twice the risk of developing an early colon cancer and quadruple the risk of developing a rectal cancer as someone born in 1950.
The incidence of these cancers in young patients continues to rise. It’s unclear why this trend is occurring, and so far there is no direct evidence to a cause. It’s possible that it may be linked to differences in diet, rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
One area of emerging research is the microbiome, which refers to bacteria that lives normally and commonly in the bowel, and how they may affect the development of cancer. Research is showing that imbalances in certain types of bacteria may not only be related to formation of colon cancers, but also to how colon cancers respond to treatment.
These new screening guidelines can work to catch cancers or precancerous lesions in patients in an earlier and more curable state. Even with screening at a lower age, younger patients need to be more aware if they are having symptoms such as blood in the stool, changes in stool such as diarrhea, cramping or abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss, as those should be signs to check in with their physicians for evaluation.
It is important to know that the information in this post, including Sarah Cannon’s recommendations for screening, is accurate as of the publishing date.