Cancer: Millennials' Risk of Colorectal Disease Increases Sharply

Toni Houston
March 3, 2017

It is estimated that more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in 2017, along with almost 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer.

They found that people born in the 1990s are about twice as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer as people born in the middle of the last century.

Reversing these factors could help reduce people's risk of developing colorectal cancer, the researchers noted. This means that a cancer once considered to be a disease people would suffer older is life is massively affecting a young generation.

That being said, most people still think that it's a cancer that mostly strikes older people, but new research shows that there's been an alarming rise in the number of colon and rectal cancer cases in people under the age of 50, particularly among young adults. An increase of two percent per year from the mid-1990s to 2013 was observed in those 40 to 54. For example, beginning in the mid-1980s, rates of colon cancer declined among those aged 55 or older, but increased by 1.0% per year in adults aged 30 to 39 years and by 2.4% for adults aged 20 to 29 years.

For years, overall rates of colon and rectal cancers have been dropping for the people thought to be most at risk-the elderly.

Other studies have already shown an increase in the incidence of colorectal cancers in those under 50 years of age, for whom regular screening is not generally recommended.

While they didn't determine the reason for the significant shift, the authors suggested a reconsideration of the age that cancer screening begins.


A new study finds that compared to people born around 1950, when colorectal cancer risk was lowest, those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer.

Anjelica Davis, president of Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC), told Healthline her organization is getting the word out on screening during this awareness month.

They then contact people with results and If someone gets a negative result, they don't have to be screened for an entire year.

"I was in shock", she said. Less invasive alternatives are also available, like the fecal immunochemical test, which can be ordered through your physician and sent off to a lab for testing, without having to take off work. "But that's not what we see", she said.

While it is the second most-common cancer and its prevalence is high here compared to other OECD countries, the death rate is lower because of early detection and better access to treatment. Young people often are diagnosed at a later stage because, unlike older Americans, they aren't getting screened, and doctors don't necessarily suspect cancer, Azad noted.

Lagasse knows this all too well.

Many young patients have no obvious risks, Weber said, so "we suspect there may be additional factors at play".

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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