June 26, 2020
What Young Adults Need to Know About Colorectal Cancer
According to a recent study conducted by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is on the rise in the United States among people under 50. In fact, those who are ages 18-27 have double the risk of developing colon cancer and quadruple the risk of developing rectal cancer than people born in the 1950s were when they were between those ages. What is causing this and what can you do to help lower your risk of developing colon or rectal cancer?
What is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon, the rectum or a combination of the two. It is also the third most common cancer in both men and women. Most colorectal cancers begin with a polyp, which is a small growth, appearing on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps are more common in people aged 50 or above. If a polyp is cancerous, the cells can spread to the wall of the colon or rectum, and then to the blood or lymph vessels of the colon or rectum and eventually metastasize throughout the body.
Symptoms of colon or rectal cancers can include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Weakness and fatigue
- Blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Changes in bowel movements (diarrhea, constipation) that last for more than a few days
Why is Colorectal Cancer More Common in Younger People Than in the Past?
Scientists and researchers aren’t exactly sure of a specific reason for increased colorectal cancer cases among young adults, but some studies suggest that it could be a combination of things including:
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of physical activity
- The rise in obesity cases within this age range (18-27)
Researchers continue to work towards finding other contributing factors for developing colon cancer.
What Can I Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?
While you may not be able to prevent colorectal cancer from developing – whether as a young adult or when you’re older, there are ways you may be able to reduce your risk.
According to the American Cancer Society, here are some ways you can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer:
- Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and less red and processed meats
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit smoking
- If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation
Talking to your doctor about getting screened for colon cancer is arguably the most effective way you can reduce your risk. The recommended age for colon cancer screening is 45, and regular screenings thereafter until age 75.
There are screening options throughout the state of Florida and helpful resources to learn more, including free colorectal cancer screenings for some. Young adults that have a family history of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about the right time to start colorectal cancer screenings. You might also want to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of colorectal cancer. Learn more about genetic testing for hereditary colon cancer syndromes.
If you are experiencing any of the colorectal cancer symptoms listed above, don’t wait to talk to your doctor. The earlier that colorectal cancer is found and treated, the better the survival rate! If you would like to talk to a genetic counselor, contact our office in Brevard County for an appointment.