When Age Matters: Colorectal Cancer Under Age 50 on the Rise

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Colorectal cancer cases in the U.S. are declining, and that’s good news. But new findings point to increasing colorectal cancer rates among younger adults, as nearly one-third of today’s colorectal cancer patients are younger than age 55. The American Cancer Society recommends that regular colorectal cancer screenings begin at age 50. But researchers are now asking if screenings should start sooner.

Am I At Risk?

You’ve got a higher chance of developing colorectal cancer if you: 

  • Are overweight or obese
     
  • Don’t exercise
     
  • Consume a diet high in red and/or processed meats. 
     
  • Smoke
     
  • Consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women
     
  • Have a personal history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
     
  • Have a family history of polyps, colorectal cancer or inherited gene mutation linked to cancer (such as Lynch syndrome)
     
  • Are of African American or Eastern European Jewish descent
     
  • Have type 2 diabetes

Talk with your doctor if you think an early colorectal cancer screening may be right for you.

How Can I Protect Myself?

You can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer with some small lifestyle changes. Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit and whole grains; avoid red and processed meats; maintain a healthy body mass index; get active; and quit smoking. Remember to get screened — proper screening is 90 percent effective in preventing colorectal cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
     
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one
     
  •  Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
     
  • Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark
     
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
     
  • Weakness and fatigue
     
  • Unintended weight loss