Gen Xers And Millennials At Greater Risk of Colorectal Cancer

March 30, 2017

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests colorectal cancer rates are rising sharply among young and middle-aged Americans, while they are declining in those aged 55 and older. The study raises questions about whether screening should start earlier.

The study found that between the mid-1980s and 2014, colon cancer rates increased 1–2% per year for people in their 20s and 30s. The rates also increased for middle-aged adults also increased, but more slowly.

Rectal cancer rates climbed at about 3% annually for people in their 20s and 30s, and 2% per year for people aged 40 to 54, according to the study. The results reveal that three in 10 new cases of rectal cancer are found in patients under age 55, which is double to the rates in 1990. Rectal cancer rates in adults 55 and older have dropped for the past four decades.

Rebecca Siegel, of the American Cancer Society, led the study. She called the magnitude of the increase shocking. The study researchers didn’t determine a reason for the shift. However, changes in diet, lack of exercise, liber fiber consumption and excess weight could be contributing factors, according to Siegel.

Most colorectal cancers start as polyps on an inner wall of the large intestine. While most polyps are benign, some can develop into cancer over time. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2017 there will be approximately more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40,000 new rectal cancer cases. Approximately 50,000 Americans will die of colorectal cancer this year.