Late last month, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study reviewing data spanning more than four decades. The findings have been making headlines ever since. The incidence of colon cancer is on the rise among people under the age of 55. In particular, Gen Xers and Millennials need to be hyper-vigilant about their gut health.
The study found that individuals born in 1990 had two times the risk of early colon cancer and four times the risk of early rectal cancer as someone born in 1950. This risk is expected to continue, according to the lead researcher of the study, Rebecca Siegel.
The results are raising alarm among the medical and science community. The American Cancer Society reports that if these trends continue, the incidence rates among people 20 to 34 years of age will increase dramatically. It is predicted that by 2030, incidences will rise by 90 percent for colon cancer and 124 percent for rectal cancer. Among people age 35 to 49, rates are expected to grow by 27 percent and 46 percent respectively.
Researchers and physicians are still uncertain of the cause. Many efforts over the last decade have helped combat the high rates of colon cancer for the over 50 population. However, there has been little focus on individuals who have a family history or engage in lifestyle habits that may influence risk.
How do You Know Your Risk?
It starts with a conversation – with your family. Though colon health isn’t exactly the best icebreaker, it just might be essential to your health. If a first-degree relative (as in your parent, sibling, or child) has been diagnosed with colon polyps or any form of colorectal cancer, you are at a significantly increased risk. In some cases, colon cancer risk is as high as 100 percent – odds that aren’t in your favor.
Family history is just one colon cancer risk profile. Doctors are also pointing out the rise in obesity, which like colon cancer rates has increased steadily over the past 40 years. Experts speculate that the modern meal plan, consistently largely of junk foods, may be partly to blame. Diet and exercise are not just vital to looking and feeling your best. It is also a formula for total health and disease prevention.
And, of course, if you are having symptoms, see a gastroenterologist. The symptoms of colon cancer can be subtle and easily written off, such as abdominal pain, bloody stools, or changes to bowel habits. It is not uncommon for these symptoms to be dismissed in younger people by primary care physicians, making it important to talk to a gastroenterologist who specializes in digestive diseases and is vastly familiar with the characteristics of colon cancer in all its sizes, shapes, ages, and stages.
If you have been diagnosed with irritable bowel disease (IBD), your risk is higher than patients without these conditions.
If you do discover that you are at risk, the good news is that early diagnosis and treatment is simple. A colonoscopy can be performed during a simple outpatient procedure. At an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), most patients are at the facility for no more than two to three hours. Most patients are fully recovered just a few hours afterward and get back to living life. Plus at an ASC, you get the highest quality of care – board certified gastroenterologists, top-rated facilities – and all at affordable rates.