Local experts respond as new study shows colon cancer death rates up for younger adults

Dr. R. Fraser Stokes
Amanda Steen Dr. R. Fraser Stokes is pictured in his office on Wed. March 19 at Southwest Gastrointestinal.

As a new study reports death rates from colon cancer are increasing for white Americans under 55, local experts say they have seen the disease affect younger adults.

“My wife, Kathy, was 46 when she developed colon cancer,’’ said Rick Rafail, of Uniontown, director of operations for the Fayette County Colon Cancer Network, a volunteer non-profit organization that formed about 15 years ago and advocates for awareness. Kathy Rafail serves as the group’s president.

Rafail named other members of the network who were in their 30s and 40s when diagnosed and that someone as young as 17 had once joined the group.

“They were caught off guard,’’ he said, “because they thought it was an old person’s disease.’’

Dr. Fraser Stokes, of Southwestern Gastrointestinal Specialists in Uniontown, said doctors in the practice have found a number of colon cancers in younger people over the years — “some with no family history whatsoever.’’

Stokes explained that two studies on colon cancer came out this year by the same researchers.

Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society was lead author for a report published earlier this year that noted colon and rectal cancer were on the rise among people in their 20s and 30s.

Their most recent report, published this past week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported deaths from colorectal cancer are increasing for young and middle-aged…