Overall, colorectal cancer incidence is on the decline
It’s still the third most common cancer in the United States, with over 95,000 new cases expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Men have a 1 in 21 risk of developing the disease, while women fare a bit better at 1 in 23. “Rates have been steadily decreasing over the past few decades, largely as a result of increased screening,” says Jerald D. Wishner, MD, FACS, director of the minimally invasive and colorectal surgery program at Northern Westchester Hospital. Still, as many as half of Americans who should be getting colon cancer screenings, aren’t, which is why some 50,000 die from colorectal cancer each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But it’s on the rise for younger people
Even though the overall numbers for colorectal cancer have declined, there’s a curious increase in the disease for younger Americans. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “colon cancer incidence rates increased by 1.0 percent to 2.4 percent annually since the mid-1980s in adults age 20 to 39 years and by 0.5 percent to 1.3 percent since the mid-1990s in adults age 40 to 54 years.” While these numbers may seem small, what will happen they get older? Since the age for colorectal screenings is 50, there could be many younger people out there now with cancer that aren’t getting screened, says Dr. Wishner. So if these trends continue, the general decline of colorectal cancer could stop, and the overall rate could start to rise. (Don’t miss the silent signs of colorectal cancer.)
Their cancers may be more deadly
Initiating routine screening with colonoscopies was a game changer because it has allowed doctors to find cancerous polyps (growths in the lining of the colon) early or when they’re still precancerous. However, often young, healthy adults don’t have a doctor or don’t get seen regularly, so potential concerns never get addressed in the first place. Being traditionally healthy, they also may blow off symptoms. These are the colon cancer signs you might be ignoring.
Young patients do walk through the doors
When Gina Neri was 39, she saw her doctor for rectal bleeding. He then referred her to a GI specialist for testing, and she was diagnosed…