Young Adults Diagnosed with Late-Stage Colorectal Cancer at Rising Rates

In the past, some research has suggested that earlier screening for colorectal cancer – also known as rectal or colon cancer – could be beneficial for improving patient outcomes. For example, last October, I wrote about how new guidelines suggested that the colorectal screening age should be reduced to 45. 

Now, shares Prevention, it seems like that move was done at the right time – considering research which suggests a significant increase in colorectal cancer diagnosis in younger adults. In a study published in Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers evaluated data from 104,000 patients with colorectal adenocarcinoma from a 16-year period. Findings from the study show that:

  • Levels of rectal-only, late-stage cancer increased 133% in those between the ages of 20-29 and 97% in late-stage colon cancer for those between the ages of 30-39. 
  • While cancer rates are also rising in older individuals, those between the ages of 40-49 saw a 48% increase – just less than half of that in those a decade younger. 
  • The most significant increases were found in those of Black or Hispanic descent. 

While some hypothesize that a modern diet which deprioritizes healthy eating, environmental factors, gut microbiota, genetic factors, or rising rates of obesity could be a cause, doctors are still unsure of the underlying reason behind these significant rises. Others believe there is an unknown cause that we still have yet to discover.

Either way, more research is warranted – but in the meantime, make sure to speak to doctors if you have any symptoms. And, of course, get screened when possible!

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer affects the large intestine and often begins as benign polyps in either the colon or the rectum. As time passes, these benign polyps become malignant (cancerous). Polyps may be small or produce no symptoms. Thus, screening – and polyp removal, if found – can be helpful in colorectal cancer diagnoses. Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer development include a family history of this type of cancer or a personal history of polyps or cancer; older age (50+); being of African-American descent; smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol; having a high-fat and low-fiber diet; prior radiation treatment; or being obese. 

Often, symptoms do not manifest until later stages of the cancer. These symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue and general malaise/weakness
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding and/or bloody stool
  • Abdominal discomfort (pain, cramping, bloating, gassiness)
  • A persistent change in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, narrow stool)
  • Feeling as though the bowels are not emptying completely

Learn more about colorectal cancer.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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