Colorectal cancers rates have been increasing in younger people, as found in a recent study by the American Cancer Society. Although currently, ninety percent of cases of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, the overall rates for these cancers have been steadily dropping. Interestingly, as the rates in older individuals have steadily dropped, researchers have found the rates of colorectal cancer in people born after 1950 has been steadily increasing. Scientists are scrambling to find the answers as to why this is happening.
"It's an interesting study because the rise in the youth comes with a fall in other ages," Dr. Jordan Berlin, co-leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a report from ABC News. "One would have to think that lifestyle may play a role,” said Berlin, who was not involved in the study.
Berlin said that increase of these cancers in younger people may be connected to how our diet has evolved — or devolved — since the 1950s, when these changes began. Statistics show that our current diet is often higher in saturated fats, sugars and grains, which can affect cancer risk. "Our diet, which would be considered a Western diet, has a higher risk for colon cancer. We have certainly changed our diet from the 1950's to 1990's."
Many experts echo Berlin’s thoughts, saying that the connection between an increase in unhealthy habits and the rise of these cancers in younger people might be the key. In addition to a poor diet, young people are more likely to smoke, consume more alcohol, and not get enough exercise. All of these factors contribute to a higher risk of cancer.
Another issue is that young people are getting recommended for the proper screenings for these cancers. Even when a younger patient has several symptoms of a colorectal cancer, they are often misdiagnosed with a less serious condition like hemorrhoids or ulcers. With these new findings, experts say that it is important that healthcare providers now start screening for these cancers at a younger age.