Colon cancer is most often associated with older adults. 90% of colon cancer cases occur in people over the age of 50. This does not mean that young adults are immune to colorectal cancer, however. Colon cancer in young adults is uncommon, but some research shows that it’s becoming more common. A recent study from researchers at the American Cancer Society found that colorectal cancer incidence is increasing among young adults.
Colorectal cancer rates increase among young adults.
The study examined colorectal cancer incidence patterns in the U.S. between 1974 and 2013. According to the research, colorectal cancer rates are declining overall, but a there’s been an increase in colon and rectal cancer cases in young adults.
Colorectal cancer rates in young adults have been increasing since the 1980s, and rectal cancer rates have been increasing since the 1970s. People born in 1990 are twice as likely to get colon cancer and four times as likely to get rectal cancer as people born in 1950, at the same age.
Over the last 30 years, colon cancer rates among people in their 20s increased 2.4 percent per yer, and 1 percent per year for people in their 30s. Since 1974, rectal cancer rates increased 3.2% per year for people between the ages of 20-29. Rectal cancer incidence rates increased 3.2% per year for adults between the ages of 30-39 since 1980.
Rectal or colon cancer in young adults is still uncommon, however. Despite an increase in colorectal cancer rates in younger adults, most cases are still diagnosed in people over the age of 50.
The study that brought this new pattern to light did not examine causes for the increased incidence for colorectal cancer in young adults. The authors point to the rise in obesity among young adults, though, and the increasing tendency toward sedentary lifestyles and low-fiber, high-fat diets. They point to evidence that the “Western style” diet of highly processed foods, sodas, and high consumption of red meat has been shown to cause changes in the colon in a short time. The researchers stress the importance of healthy living and a mindful approach towards wellness.
How to decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.
There a number of things that you can do to help decrease your risk for colon or rectal cancer. The earlier you start, the lower your risk for colorectal cancer.
- Limit alcohol consumption. There’s a correlation between excessive alcohol consumption and colorectal cancer.
- Don’t smoke. Like drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco increases your risk for colon and rectal cancers.
- Eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in unhealthy fats. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a nutritious diet that’s high in fiber can help prevent colorectal cancer.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Physical activity and exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.
- Colon cancer is highly preventable. Everyone, male and female, should start regular colon cancer screenings starting at age 50. Those at a higher risk for colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about screening for colon cancer earlier.