A recent report published in the Journal of American Medical Association (Nov.5) has colon cancer researchers scratching their heads. On one hand colon cancer rates, in adults over 50, have been steadily declining over the last 30 years. Researchers credit this to increased awareness of the disease and the push for screening colonoscopies. On the other hand during the same time period there has been a steady increase in colorectal cancers in patients under 50 years of age. The study type was an analysis of data of annual cancer incidence rates and the annual percentage change that number represented.

The results showed that for patients age 20-34 years of age there was an increasing incidence rate. A smaller, but still significant, increasing rate was also seen in patients age 35-49 years of age. The authors, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, used the trends to show that, if the increase continues on the same curve, by the year 2030 the colorectal cancer incidence rates will almost double for this younger group.

Researchers caution that more studies need to be done to find the cause for the increase in these cancers in younger people. Known risk factors for colorectal cancers include:

  • family history
  • obesity
  • inactivity
  • smoking
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • high fat/low fiber diets

What can we take learn from this information? If you are over 50, speak to your primary care physician and ask for a referral to Asheville Gastroenterology Associates. Our specially trained doctors will make sure you have a thorough exam and remove any polyps that may have already developed. If you are under 50, you should speak to your doctor about your concerns and risk factors. You may benefit from a screening colonoscopy before the age of 50.