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Colon Cancer Rates Increase in Young Adults, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 06, 2014 09:38 AM EST

Colon cancer has always been viewed as a cancer that typically develops in older patients. Due to this trend, screening for the cancer is recommended for people with average risk over the age of 50. However, according to a new study, researchers reported that screening guidelines and medical care might have to be revised after finding increasing rates of colon cancer in young adults.

For this research, the team from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center headed by Christina Bailey examined data on 393,241 patients between 1975 and 2010. The researchers discovered that since 1998, the number of reported colon cancer cases has been increasing in younger adults and decreasing in older adults.

During this time frame, the cancer rate dropped about one percent annually in adults aged 50 and older. On the other hand, the rates increased by two percent each year for adults aged 20 to 34 and by about half of a percent in the age group of 35 to 49.

"The increasing incidence of [colon cancer] among young adults is concerning and highlights the need to investigate potential causes and external influences such as lack of screening and behavioral factors," the researchers wrote according to Philly.

Based on the rate of increase, the researchers estimated that the future rate of colon cancer would increase by about 50 percent in the age group of 20 to 34. For adults between the ages of 35 and 49, the rate could jump by 46 percent. More specifically, the researchers calculated that by 2020 and 2030, the cancer rate for adults aged 20 to 34 will increase by 38 percent and 90 percent, respectively. For adults aged 50 and older, the rate is expected to decline by 23 percent in 2020 and 41 percent in 2030.

"Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies," the authors wrote according to the Washington Post.

"Dietary and lifestyle factors in this age population needs to be carefully examined," Dr. Jules Garbus, an attending colorectal surgeon at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y, commented. "Moreover, a genetic link to colorectal cancer clearly should be considered."

The study was published in JAMA Surgery.

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