Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Adults across the United States are diagnosed with colorectal cancer at an early age, with 1 in 5 new cases among those under 55, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society.
The report indicates that the incidence of colorectal cancer among adults under the age of 55 increased from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019.
There also appears to be a general shift towards more advanced cancer diagnoses.
In 2019, 60% of all new colorectal cases were in advanced stages among all age groups.
“Anecdotally, it’s not uncommon for us now to hear about a young man with advanced colorectal cancer,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society.
For example, “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman died at the age of 43 from colon cancer.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint why colorectal cancers are on the rise among younger adults, he says, some factors may be related to changes in the environment or people’s diets.
“We don’t try to blame anyone when they are diagnosed with cancer, but when we notice a change over a short period of time, it is more likely that something external that the patient experienced led to it,” Dahut said.
And when it comes to diseases like colorectal cancer, it’s hard to rule out the possibility of a diet link, says Dahut.
The new report also notes that more people are surviving colorectal cancer, with the relative survival rate at least five years after diagnosis rising from 50% in the mid-70s to 65% between 2012 and 2018, due in part to advances in treatment.
This is good news, said Dr. Paul Oberstein, a medical oncologist at New York University Langone Perlmutter Cancer Center.
General trends indicate that colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are slowly declining.
“If we look at the general trends, the incidence of colon cancer in this report has fallen from 66 per 100,000 in 1985 to 35 per 100,000 in 2019, about half,” Obersten said.
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men under the age of 50.
Dahut said the best way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to follow screening guidelines, and get a stool-based test or a visual exam such as a colonoscopy when recommended.
For the new report, researchers at the American Cancer Society analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control and Control on cancer screenings, cases and deaths.
Researchers found that between 2011 and 2019, colorectal cancer rates increased by 1.9% per year in people under the age of 55.
And while overall colorectal cancer death rates fell by 57% between 1970 and 2020, death rates among people under 50 have continued to rise by 1% per year since 2004.
Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director for surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the report, said in a news release, “We know that rates are increasing among young adults, but it’s troubling to see how quickly all patients are getting younger. despite the shrinking numbers in the total population.
“The trend towards more advanced disease in people of all ages is also surprising and should motivate everyone aged 45 and over to get tested,” she added.
Dr. Robin Mendelsohn, a gastroenterologist and co-director of the Center for Onset of Colorectal and Digestive Cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told CNN the findings highlight the importance of colorectal cancer screening.
“The age to start screening has recently fallen to 45, which helps to try to screen more people, but we still need to understand more about why we’re seeing this increase and it’s something we’re very much looking forward to,” Mendelsohn wrote.
Mendelsohn notes that she has noticed an increase in advanced colorectal cancers and diagnoses among her younger patients, and says she watches for symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits.
“Until we understand more, it is important that patients and caregivers recognize these symptoms in order to evaluate them promptly,” she added.
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