Could Lack of Colorectal Screenings be to Blame for the Spike in Cancer Rates Under 50?


By Joy Stephenson-Laws and the pH health care professionals

Colorectal cancer may be most prevalent among people over the age of 50, but that doesn’t mean younger people are immune to it. In the late 90s, Katie Couric and husband Jay Monahan learned he had colon cancer. He died nine months later at the age of 42. Since then, Couric has been a dedicated advocate for colon cancer screenings. If you’re over 50, there’s a good chance your doctor has already talked to you about colonoscopies and the importance of screening for colorectal cancer.

But what about younger patients?

Unless they have a family history of colorectal cancer, it’s unlikely to come up at a doctor’s visit. And this is bad news according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers have uncovered a disturbing trend: despite rapid declines in colorectal cancer in the U.S. overall, diagnoses among young adults are on the rise.

Colorectal cancer in the U.S. has been dropping for decades by as much as 3 percent a year in recent years (2003 to 2012). The most recent dips are credited to the upturn in screenings. However, colorectal cancer screenings aren’t typically recommended until age 50. So what we’re seeing is increases in colorectal cancer among those who are younger than 50.

Colon cancer rates have increased by 1 to 2.4 percent each year since the mid ‘80s among 20- to 39-year-olds. Rectal cancer rates are even worse -- they’ve increased 3.2 percent each year since the mid ‘70s among 20- to 29-year-olds. In contrast, rates among people 55 and up have been decreasing.

Be proactive and talk to your doctor about when to begin colorectal screenings

If you are nervous about the idea of a colonoscopy, don’t let that stop you.

The goal is to increase the number of screenings to reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer. So if uneasiness about getting a colonoscopy has prevented you from getting screened, read here for other types of screenings, and talk to your doctor about your concerns. For example, there are options for direct visualization tests as well as stool-based tests.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, health care attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.


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