Rebecca Siegel, a public health researcher with the American Cancer Society who led the study, says the finding that the colorectal cancer risk for millennials has risen is sobering. The data was taken from 500,000 cases of colorectal cancer over 40 years and does not indicate why the rates are rising. Colon cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in men and women in the USA, according to the American Cancer Society, and screenings like colonoscopies are part of the reason why so many cases can be diagnosed - often when the cancer is still treatable.
For starters, he said, "Although relative rates are rising in younger people, the absolute risk is still low in the younger population". The risk of colon and rectal cancers is skyrocketing in millennials, and here's how you can protect yourself.
The study, led by the American Cancer Society, found that younger adults born in 1990 have double the risk of developing colon cancer as those born around 1950.
The data supports what we've been hearing from our community for years: young people, in the prime of their lives, are being diagnosed more often and at a later stage than any other group. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults only start getting regular screenings once they turn 50.
An alarming three in ten rectal cancer diagnoses are now in patients below the age of 55. But now, researchers have found that a cancer that was believed to mostly affect those over the age of 50 has been spiking in young adults.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the U.S. and the second leading cause in men, according to the ACS.
Many young patients have no obvious risks, Weber said, so "we suspect there may be additional factors at play".
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The study did not uncover a reason for the change.
In addition, the authors suggest that the age to initiate screening people at average risk may need to be reconsidered.
But these did not examine incidence rates by five year age group or year of birth, so the scope of the increasing trend had not been fully assessed.
Siegel said current screening practices might deserve a second look, given that some 10,400 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in people in their 40s in 2013. Starting in about 1974, the rate has been increasing by about 3 percent a year among people aged 20 to 29.
In adults aged 40 to 54, rates increased by 0.5 to 1 percent per year from the mid-1990s through 2013.
"These numbers are similar to the total number of cervical cancers diagnosed, for which we recommend screening for the 95 million women ages 21 to 65 years", said Siegel.
Siegel called the study results "just very shocking", saying researchers had not expected the rates to rise so rapidly, the Post reported.