Colon Cancer and Young Adults

Dr. Christian Clark Weighs in on Rising Colon Cancer Rates in Young Adults

As you may have heard, colon cancer has been rising in young adults in recent years. It’s an alarming trend that has distressed the medical community, but unfortunately, researchers haven’t yet discovered why it’s happening. So what can you do about it? Dr. Christian Clark, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Tulsa Endoscopy Center , has the scoop.

Dr. Clark estimates that over the last 5 years, approximately 15% of his colon cancer patients were under the age of 50. Previously, colon cancer was largely renowned as an “old person’s disease,” with 90% of diagnoses occurring in people 50 or older.

Is it random?

Dr. Clark said, “I’d hate to call this increase in young adults ‘random.’ Of course random things occur in medicine, but this is a concerning trend that I don’t think we can play off as a random finding. We’re starting to see an increase in younger people smoking, so maybe tobacco abuse is playing a role. We’re also seeing a rise in obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle in the younger generation. I think all of these could play a role in this increase. Hopefully, researchers can delve into this data and mine out what is causing this rise in young people with colorectal cancer.”

Although these results are surprising, the recommended age for the average person to begin colon cancer screenings is 45. However, if you have a higher risk (due to ethnicity, family history, personal history of cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease), you should begin screening colonoscopies earlier.

To know your risk, you should ask your family about any history of colon polyps or cancer and at what age they were diagnosed, as well as whether any other gastrointestinal disorders  or symptoms run in your family.

While you can’t control your family history, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by avoiding tobacco, minimizing alcohol use, and decreasing your intake of red meat, high fat foods, processed foods, and simple sugars.

If you’re experiencing symptoms such as a change in bowel habits, blood in stool, black stool, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, or anemia, Dr. Clark recommends scheduling an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Ask your doctor to make sure they’re not missing early warning signs for colon cancer —regardless of your age. When colon cancer is found in the earlier stages, there is a 90% chance of survival. Schedule your screening colonoscopy today .