Now Trending: Colon Cancer in Young Adults

Premier Health Now

Here’s disturbing news that’s trend-worthy. If you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s, your risk of colon cancer has doubled, and your risk of rectal cancer has quadrupled compared to older adults. This, according to American Cancer Society researchers who found that people younger than 55 are 58 percent more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage colon or rectal cancer than older adults. 

At the same time, these cancer rates have been dropping among the 50-plus population. 

To find out why, Premier Health Now talked with Rose Danielson, MD, Premier Gastroenterology Specialists. Routine colonoscopy is the likely reason for the drop in older adults, she says. During colonoscopy, your doctor looks for precancerous polyps and removes them if found. That procedure, recommended every five to 10 years beginning at age 50, has reduced the incidence of these cancers in recent years.  

Although regular colonoscopy screenings are not yet recommended for young adults, that might change. In the meantime, Dr. Danielson encourages everyone to follow these tips to avoid colon and rectal cancer:

  • Eat less red meat, more veggies
  • Avoid highly processed foods
  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol
  • Exercise regularly

Obesity is a risk factor for colon and rectal cancers. A family history also increases your risk.

Finding these cancers early can be the difference between life and death, says Dr. Danielson. See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:

  • A change in your stool (diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool) that lasts for more than a few days
  • Rectal bleeding, dark stools or blood in your stool
  • Cramping or belly pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Feeling you need to have a bowel movement after just having one