Increase in Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer Diagnoses and Deaths Worry Researchers
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and a new study released by the American Cancer Society reveals a troubling uptick in colorectal cancer diagnosis and deaths among adults younger than 55. According to the report, cases of colorectal cancer and related deaths have declined, with incidence rates dropping by 46 percent and mortality rates dropping by 57 percent in the past 50 years. However, the proportion of new diagnoses in patients younger than 55 increased from 11% to 20%. Additionally, the proportion of individuals of all ages presenting with advanced-stage CRC increased from 52% in the mid-2000s to 60% in 2019.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third most common cause of cancer-related death in both men and women in the U.S. Rates are higher in men than women, with the rate 33 percent higher in the group (41.5 cases per 100,000) compared to women (31.2 per 100,000). Since 2005, the mortality rate among those under 50 has grown by approximately one percent every year. For those aged 50 to 54, the population has grown by an average of 0.6% annually over the same period.
It is now suggested by the American Cancer Society that individuals begin having a colonoscopy at 45 years old. It is recommended by physicians that you be aware of any risks you may have, such as any medical history in your family and that you get tested Current guidelines recommend a colonoscopy starting at age 45 and earlier if there is a family history or other risk factors.
The reason for the uptick in younger patients is unclear to researchers and physicians, though some hypothesize that dietary influences are involved. Colorectal cancer risk is increased by the consumption of processed meats, being overweight, insufficient physical activity, drinking alcohol, and smoking tobacco. A diet low in fruits, vegetables, and fiber can also contribute to the risk.
In a news release, Dr. Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, expressed her concern over the data, noting the critical need for targeted cancer research studies to understand and prevent early-onset colorectal cancer. The diagnosis of more advanced disease further emphasizes the significance of screening and early detection, which can help to preserve lives.
Signs of this condition may include rectal bleeding (with or without pain), stool with visible blood, changes in bowel habits, abdominal bloating and/or cramping, unintentional weight loss, and tiredness.
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