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Q&A: Colon cancer increasing in young adults

Colon and rectal cancer studies have been increasing due to these cancers claiming the lives of young adults. Recently, a study published in JAMA found that despite the total rates of colon cancer decreasing, cases in young adults are still increasing. 

Is there an increase in colon and rectal cancer in patients under 50?

We’ve definitely seen an increase in colon and rectal cancer in patients under 50, often with advanced disease. 

Should the screening age be lowered to adjust to this trend?  

That is something that needs to be considered, though the majority of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer are still in the over 50 age group.

What are some risk factors a young adult could look for before the typical screening age? 

Rectal bleeding, anemia, change in bowel habits, weight loss, abdominal pain are all red flags that should not be ignored. Younger patients and their physicians tend to dismiss symptoms that would trigger an evaluation in an older patient. 

What are preventative measures one can take? 

Exercise, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, get screened at the appropriate time, see your doctor if new symptoms develop that might prompt further evaluation.

Tufts Medical Center’s GI department offers colorectal cancer screenings – learn more about the screening and how to schedule a procedure