A new report released by the American Cancer Society in March 2023 shows that a diagnosis of colorectal cancer is shifting to a younger population, and the cancer is often later-stage. Of people that are newly diagnosed, 20% are under the age of 55. In addition, nearly 60% of patients are also being diagnosed with more advanced cancer. Both of these statistics are alarming.
The report has good news – the overall rate of colorectal cancer is decreasing, largely thanks to people over 50 getting colonoscopies as recommended. As a result, death rates overall have also dropped.
Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director at the American Cancer Society and the report’s lead author, stated: “We know rates are increasing in young people, but it’s alarming to see how rapidly the whole patient population is shifting younger, despite shrinking numbers in the overall population. The trend toward more advanced disease in people of all ages is also surprising and should motivate everyone 45 and older to get screened.”
Some of the other findings of the report include the following:
- Rates of colon cancer have increased by 2 percent each year in people under 50.
- Death rates in people under 50 have increased by 1 percent each year.
- When patients are diagnosed, more of them have cancer that has metastasized or spread beyond the colon.
- Men are at a higher risk of colorectal cancer than women.
- Indigenous Alaskans, Native Americans, and Blacks are disproportionately affected.
All these statistics show that there is much work to do to change the trends. The typical lifestyle of Americans is full of risk factors for developing colon cancer, like smoking, eating too many processed foods and not enough fiber, leading a sedentary lifestyle, or being obese. This may be one explanation as to why colon cancer rates are rising in younger people.
Currently, colonoscopy remains the gold standard in diagnosing colon cancer early or preventing it entirely. Everyone should get their first colonoscopy at 45 – it’s the best way to reverse these alarming trends.
“Not only is colonoscopy the most effective tool in the effort to screen for colon cancer, but by removing benign colon polyps, the future development of colorectal cancers can be prevented.” — Albert Ross, MD