Health Team

Colorectal cancer a growing problem in young people

Posted March 24, 2016
Updated March 25, 2016

— Colorectal cancer is normally not considered a disease of younger people, however over the last 20 years, rates have increased significantly for people between 20- and 50-years-old.

Current recommendations do not call for colon cancer screenings until the age of 50, unless there is a prior history of gastrointestinal problems.

According to experts, there are certain factors behind a rise in cases in younger patients.

The Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Jean Ashburn said physicians are changing how they look at the younger patients.

"Younger people tend to ignore symptoms, or attribute for instance, rectal bleeding, hemorrhoids, or even more disappointingly, if they do see their doctor, sometimes they are told, 'Oh, you're too young to have a problem. This is nothing,'" said Ashburn.

Researchers are continuing to learn about what causes colon cancer, and whether there are environmental or dietary risk factors involved.

They are also finding that young people with colon cancer are often diagnosed at later stages of the disease, which could be due to younger people not seeking help until they exhibit symptoms like rectal bleeding or anemia.

"If you do have bleeding with bowel movements, make sure you tell your doctor and have them check you out," Ashburn said.

Ashburn said not to blame all bleeding on hemorrhoids, and to evaluate risk factors.

Because of the increase of colon cancer in younger patients, physicians are currently re-evaluating whether the age of 50 is young enough for screening patients with no risk factors.


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