Colorectal Cancer Rates Increasing in Young Adults: What to Know

Patient Ashley Reed shares here experience with overcoming colorectal cancer at 29, in the video above. 

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that colorectal cancer doesn't just affect older adults? In fact, two recent studies found that colorectal cancer rates in the U.S. have been increasing every year among adults younger than 50 – and the frequency is greater in people younger than 40.

It's a startling trend, and if you are a young adult, you may be wondering what this means for you. Here are four takeaways from these studies:

  • The first study predicts that by 2030 colon cancer rates will increase by 90 percent and rectal cancer will increase by 124 percent in adults between the ages of 20 and 34 if cases continue to increase at the rate they are now.
  • The second study found that people born in 1990 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer and four times as likely to be diagnosed with rectal cancer compared to people born around 1950.
  • Though researchers don’t know why this is happening, increasing obesity rates in America may play a role, as obesity is a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society is currently reviewing its colon cancer screening guidelines based on these findings, but right now it still recommends everyone be screened regularly for colon cancer beginning at age 50.

Lowering your risk for colorectal cancer

What can you do to decrease your risk in the meantime? Address any risk factors you can control, and urge your doctor to take any signs or symptoms seriously.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer that you can control include:

  •  Being obese
  • Eating a high-fat, low-fiber diet
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Drinking more than the recommended daily amount of alcohol (no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women)

Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Narrow stools
  • Dark or bloody stools
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Still feeling like you need to have a bowel movement after you've had one
  • Chronic gas, cramping or abdominal pain
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Extreme weakness or tiredness 

Join us in observing National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Learn more about this common yet treatable disease and how our specialists provide care.