A new study highlights that the rate of colorectal cancer in adults under the age of 50 is increasing in European countries. A similar increase has been happening in the U.S. over the past 15 to 20 years. The reason behind this increase is not entirely clear but it’s something that people concerned about cancer shouldn’t overlook. Here’s what we do know.
The new study looked at data from 143.7 million people aged 20-49 years from 20 different counties in Europe. Between 1990 and 2016, 187,918 people were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and there was a steeper rise in the number of cases in more recent years. Among the youngest group surveyed — people between the ages of 20 and 29 — the colorectal cancer rate rose from 0.8 to 2.3 cases per 100,000 people — the sharpest rise (7.9 percent per year) was between 2004 and 2016.Read More
“We don’t know exactly why [the rates are] increasing,” Dr. Yeo said. “It’s a different type of cancer … We don’t really know, it may be something environmental … We looked at maps of the United States, we looked at smoking rates and we looked at obesity. And if you compare that to colon cancer, you’ll see where there is obesity in the United States, there’s higher colon cancer. However, it didn’t quite match with the younger age group. So there are some different risk factors with this younger age group. I think it’s really important for patients to think about their risk factors and not to ignore symptoms.”
Until researchers know more about what is causing this increase of colon cancer in young adults, in both the U.S. and Europe, paying careful attention to your body and being candid about symptoms is the best way to monitor for the disease. Symptoms for colon cancer include changes in bowel habits (which can include constipation, diarrhea, or changes to the size and shape of bowel movements), black and/or tarry stools, abdominal pain, or unexpected weight loss. These symptoms, however, can also be attributed to a number of other issues, so it’s important to have a conversation with your doctor if you’re worried about colon cancer.