Colon cancer rates rise among under-50 group

By Laura Mize • Published: May 6th, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’re supposed to start getting colonoscopies at age 50, but new research shows that for increasing numbers of people, colon cancer starts sooner.

A recent study has shown a rise in the rates of the disease among people ages 20-49, despite an overall drop in the number of colon cancer diagnoses.

A group of California researchers examined the prevalence of the cancer among young people as recorded in the state’s cancer registry.

By analyzing data from 1998 to 2009, the researchers were able to look for trends over the 21-year period. They found that while more than 90 percent of cases are diagnosed at 50 or older, the incidence of colon cancer in younger people crept up over the study period.

There was a greater increase in colon cancer among women under 50 than in men. And Caucasian people accounted for more than 70 percent of colon cancer cases in young people. Typically, African Americans have a higher incidence of colon cancer than people of other races.

It’s important to note that no group saw a truly alarming rise in colon cancer rates. In short, it’s a noteworthy shift, but nothing to get too worked up about.

Concerned young adults can bring up the topic with their physicians. It’s particularly important to do so if colon cancer runs in your family. If your parent, child or sibling has colon cancer, your chances of developing it are higher. Experts say that diabetes, smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise and other factors can contribute to your risk, too.

So, take a deep breath, assess your risk and talk with your doc if you’re concerned. If you are advised to get a colonoscopy, don’t be afraid. It’s one test that could save your life.