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Rising Rates of Colon Cancer in Younger People: Causes, Symptoms & Screening Options

colon cancer illustration

Colon Cancer on the Rise in Young Adults: What You Need to Know (2024 Update)

1. Colon Cancer on the Rise in Younger Adults: A Cause for Concern

Traditionally considered a disease affecting older populations, colon cancer rates have been steadily increasing in younger adults (people under the age of 50) for several decades. This trend has raised significant concerns within the medical community, prompting a reevaluation of risk factors, screening recommendations, and overall awareness.

Colon cancer illustration

2. Why the Rise? Uncovering Potential Causes

While the exact reasons behind this rise are still under investigation, several factors may be contributing:

  • Lifestyle: Diet high in processed meats, red meat, and low in fiber may play a role. Obesity and physical inactivity are also potential risk factors.
  • Genetics: While family history is a significant risk factor for all age groups, some studies suggest a potential role for yet-unidentified genetic mutations specific to younger-onset colon cancer.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental toxins or changes in gut bacteria could be contributing factors.

person eating junk food

Genetic research

3. Don't Ignore Your Body: Recognizing Colon Cancer Symptoms

Early detection is crucial for successful colon cancer treatment. Here are some potential symptoms to be aware of:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as ongoing diarrhea or constipation
  • Rectal bleeding (bright red blood in stool)
  • Blood in stool (may not be visible)
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent feeling of needing a bowel movement even after going

It's important to note that these symptoms can be caused by other conditions as well. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's crucial to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis.


Abdominal pain

4. Taking Action: Colon Cancer Screening Options for Young Adults

The American Cancer Society recently updated its colon cancer screening guidelines, recommending that people with an average risk begin screening at age 45 instead of the previous recommendation of 50. Here are some common screening options:

  • Colonoscopy: This is the most common and thorough screening method. It allows visualization of the entire colon and removal of precancerous polyps.
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): This non-invasive test detects hidden blood in stool, a potential sign of colon cancer.
  • Cologuard DNA Test: This stool-based test looks for specific DNA mutations associated with colon cancer.

Discuss with your doctor which screening option is best for you based on your individual risk factors and medical history.

Colon cancer

Doctor doing genetics research

5. The Bottom Line: Be Proactive About Your Health

Colon cancer is a serious health concern, but it's also treatable when detected early. By understanding the risk factors, recognizing symptoms, and discussing screening options with your doctor, you can take proactive steps to protect your health. Don't wait until it's too late.

An image of a person talking to a doctor


Remember: This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for personalized guidance and diagnosis.

An image of a person talking to a doctor

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