colorectal cancer young adults

Recent data from the American Cancer Society has revealed colorectal cancer is increasingly affecting younger adults. It has become the leading cause of cancer deaths in men under 50, and the second leading cause in women under 50.

Here we’ll explore the nature of colorectal cancer and why it is increasingly affecting younger patients.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. These cancers can be referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they originate.

Most of these cancers begin as growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum, called polyps. Not all polyps become cancerous, but certain types, like adenomatous polyps, have a higher risk of turning into cancer over time.

This type of cancer usually develops gradually, and symptoms can include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort, and weight loss. However, early stages of the disease may not present any symptoms, making regular screening vital for early detection and successful treatment.

Why are colorectal cancer cases in young adults rising?

The increasing number of cases of colorectal cancer in young adults is a complex issue, with several contributing factors.

Experts believe that lifestyle factors such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and dietary choices, including consumption of red or processed meat and alcohol, all play a significant role. These factors can lead to chronic inflammation, which is known to increase the risk of cancer. Changes in the gut microbiome due to diet and environmental factors may also contribute to rising cases.

Another critical aspect is the lack of routine screening in younger adults. Unlike older adults, who are commonly screened for colorectal cancer, younger patients aren’t regularly checked, leading to delayed diagnoses.

This means that when young adults are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is often at a more advanced stage, which can be harder to treat.

Screening for younger patients

With colorectal cancer cases on the rise in younger populations, it’s crucial to start regular screening at an earlier age. In England and Wales, you are invited for a screening from the age of 60, and this programme is being extended to include those aged from 50-59. Screening methods, such as colonoscopies, flexible sigmoidoscopy or scans, can detect polyps before they turn into cancer, helping to prevent the disease.

For younger adults aged under 50, especially those with risk factors such as a family history of colorectal cancer, genetic predispositions, or chronic inflammatory conditions, early screening is crucial. Early screening can lead to less aggressive treatment options, which can have a profound impact on the quality of life for patients.

If you are concerned about your risk of developing colorectal cancer, help is available. Scheduling an appointment with a specialist, such as Mr Alan Woodward, can provide you with various screening options, and help in early detection.

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