LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A new report from the American Cancer Society has shown an unfortunate trend in colon cancer— there's been an unexplained rise in colorectal cancer cases among younger adults.
The organization announced that 20% of colorectal cancer diagnoses in 2019 were in patients under 55, which is almost double the rate from 1995.
“Colon cancer is the third leading cause of death among cancers in the United States,” Gastroenterologist Dr. Paul Williams with Baptist Health said.
Colon cancer is a hard-hitting disease, and reports show it now impacts younger adults.
“Back in 1995, only 11% of people diagnosed with colon cancer were less than 55. Move forward to 2019 and suddenly, the numbers jumped up to 20%,” Dr. Williams explained.
This means one in five people diagnosed with colon cancer is less than 55 years old, almost doubling in those years.
It's a statistic that Dr. Williams called troubling, mainly because there's no answer as to why we're seeing a rise.
“It's a little scary because we don't know what's causing it,” Williams said. “We don't know exactly yet, why those numbers are jumping up so much, but we do know that in America, our lifestyle has a lot to do with that. We don't know if that's the sole cause or what it may be.”
He added that answers will take time, but the "American lifestyle" is a scope of what needs to change.
“Obesity, a high-fat diet, lots of processed foods in our diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol, all those factors contribute to the possibility of developing colon polyps and colon cancer,” Williams said.
If the current statistics progress and things don't change, Williams said the age of those diagnosed with colon cancers will continue to drop.
“By 2030 they're predicting that 10% of all new colon cancers will be in people under the age of 50 and 22% of all rectal cancers will be in people under the age of 50,” Williams explained. “That's a tremendous jump.”
Paired with a healthy, active lifestyle, early detection is a strong fighter against colon cancer and becoming a part of the statistic.
“There's now something called a Cologuard test,” Williams said. “It's a simple stool sample that you send in. If you want to have a colonoscopy, it's a process you go through, you'll do a little bowel prep, get cleaned out, come in, have their procedure done, but you're sedated for the procedure.”
Right now the recommended age for screening colon cancer is 45. Williams said if that's you, don't put it off.
“Everybody jokes about it, but it's something that can save your life,” Williams said.
Dr. Williams added that screening is crucial because there really are no symptoms of colon cancer.
The Cologuard test is a newer option that is now an acceptable way to get screened for colon cancer. It is applicable whether you have no family history of colon cancer or polyps or personal history of colon cancer or polyps.
Williams said that most insurance companies will pay for the Cologuard test.