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Colon, Rectal Cancer Cases Rising Among Younger People

Update Date: Mar 03, 2017 08:00 AM EST

A study reveals that there is a rising trend in colon and rectal cancer among Americans under 55, or specifically those in their 20s and 30s. The research conducted by the American Cancer Society together with the National Cancer Institute shows that people born during the 1990s have higher risks of developing colorectal cancer than those born in the 1950s.

Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist from the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study said that adults born in the 1990s have twice the risk of developing colon cancer and 4 times higher risk of developing rectal cancer than those born in the 1950s.

Siegel found this surprising trend considering that diagnosis of these diseases in younger people have been dropping in several decades.

CNN reported that researchers looked at about half a million cases of colorectal cancer from 1974-2003 but were unable to find an explanation for this increase.

According to The New York Times, there's also additional risk for younger people in terms of diagnosis since most doctors won't consider these diseases for people in their 20s and 30s. Screening and colonoscopies are normally recommended to people aged 50 and up. This could mean getting a late diagnosis that could mean having the cancer full blown and too late for cure.

While some doctors and researchers have expressed concern in the rise of young people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, some in the medical field also dismissed the findings.

Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice professor Dr. H. Gilbert Welch said the numbers are too small to cause this much stir. The professor also pointed out that the rise doesn't directly translate to mortality.

Dr. Jason A. Zell, associate oncology professor at the University of California, Irvine also did a smaller research about the increasing rates of colorectal cancer among adults ages 20 to 39 in California points out that the increase has been reported several times so we are aware of what's happening. The professor's direction is to take the next steps to ensure that there are changes in health policies so young people can get insurance coverage for treatment.

Developing less invasive and cheaper diagnostic tests is also one direction that needs development and more importantly, promoting awareness in this particular age groups is also very important.

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