“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. Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies,” says Dr. Christina Baily.

Dr. Baily came to this research fact when her team discovered through a data of 383,241 patients studied between 1975 to 2010 that the incident of colon and rectal cancer is on the increase between young folks aged 20-49 years, as against the understanding that the disease only affects older patients of 60 years and above. At the rate it is going, researchers believe that by 2020 and 2030, colon cancer incidents will increase between 38% – 90% among young adults of 20-34 years; and incidentally, the disease will drop by 23% among senior patients older than 50 years of age.

Dr. Christina can’t understand why senior adults seem to be coming low on colon and rectal cancers, while young adults seem to be catching up with the terminal disease. She however believes breakthrough screening options and modern treatment procedures have helped the older generation to overcome the disease, while behavioral factors and lack of early screening or detection seem to be working against young adults.

The National Cancer Institute predicts that about 97,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer while a further 40,000 is diagnosed with rectal cancer this year – and about 50,000 of that total will die from complications arising from both cancers. In fact, most colon and rectal cancer patients die within the first 5 years of diagnosing the disease.

Although cancer specialists believe that genetic factors and dietary consumption have a role to play in developing colon and rectal cancers, researchers cannot be more specific as to other factors that cause these diseases. To this end, Dr. Jerald Wishner of the Colorectal Surgery Program at the Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY, states that “there are no standardized recommendations for screening patients under 50 without risk factors. This explains the poor prognosis for patients who present at a younger age with symptoms. Many patients are unaware of what these risk factors are. It is important for all adults to discuss their risk with their primary physician and consider early screening if there are any risk factors or symptoms.” But the American Cancer Society recommends that consuming 5 or more servings of fruits and veggies every day and doing away with alcohol will help to prevent the disease.

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