One of the more confronting medical revelations of the year to date was that colorectal cancer rates are increasing amongst people born after 1990. This is in contrast with rates across all age groups, which have been decreasing as screening becomes increasingly common and growths are caught in their pre-cancerous state. Additionally, diagnoses are being made earlier and earlier in life, with people in their mid-20s being found to have cancerous growths.
The question is, why? And how does this impact the overall quality and length of life people in this age bracket can expect to enjoy?
A growing threat
When compared to someone of the same age born in 1950, a person born in 1990 has four times the risk of colon cancer and twice the risk of rectal cancer. The traditional wisdom holds that screening should only be recommended for people over 50, meaning that younger people are often more at risk of being diagnosed with a more advanced cancer. Some colorectal surgeons have predicted that we will see a sharp increase in the number of colorectal cancer diagnoses in people under the screening age. Dr. George J. Chang, chief of colorectal surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center, has predicted that by 2030, one in 10 colon cancers and one in four rectal cancers will be diagnosed in people under 50.
A painful, dangerous condition
Colorectal cancer is considered to be one of the more lethal cancers. With a five year survival rate of 65 per cent, it sits between a number of other more common cancers – being less lethal than prostate cancer but more lethal than cervical cancer. Often, the cancer is signalled by the appearance of blood in the stool and worsening constipation, and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting and sharp loss of weight. As many as 95 per cent of colorectal cancers occur in people with little to no genetic risk.
The mechanism behind the rise in youth colorectal cancer rates is currently unknown, but past advice on lifestyle changes to prevent colorectal cancer remain current. Maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your intake of red and processed meats can help to prevent cancers, as can increasing your consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Exercise has been associated with a modest reduction in the risk of colon cancer, but not in rectal cancer.
Start a conversation with G & L Surgical today for more information or to make an appointment for a screening.