Colorectal Cancer Rates Are Rising In Young Adults
According to a study published in JAMA Surgery on November 5, 2014 and cited by, researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, reported that colorectal cancer rates are rising in young adults. Their study suggested a concerning trend of rising incidence rates of colorectal cancer among young adults, particularly among the 20-34 year age group. Although, over the past 35 years, there has been a significant drop in incidence among persons aged 50 years and older, the opposite is true for those in younger age groups. Using predictive modeling, the authors estimate that by 2020 and 2030, the incidence rate of colon cancer will increase by 37.8% and 90%, respectively, for patients aged 20 to 34 years. While this is concerning and portends a doubling of colon cancer prevalence in the next 15-20 years, absolute incidence in young adults, aged 20-34 years, remains at 1% and in the 35-to-49-year-old age group is ~7%. A blanket recommendation of colonoscopy for screening in that age group is premature at this time because the actual incidence is low. However, attentiveness to symptoms as well as genetic screening for familial colorectal cancers in patients with high risk polyps may help us stratify risk and perhaps recommend colonoscopy for screening of the first degree relatives of those patients with high risk polyps and cancer at a much younger age than is currently practiced.

While the exact cause of this alarming trend is not clear, both genetic and behavioral factors may be to blame. For instance, consumption of diets high in red meat and fat, obesity, and physical inactivity have long been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.