Colon Cancer Deaths Rise Among Younger Adults, And No One Knows Why

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Colon Cancer Deaths Rise Among Younger Adults, And No One Knows Why
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Are you younger than 50? Has the thought of colorectal cancer crossed your mind? Well, probably not. Most colon cancer diagnoses occur after the age of 50 – the recommended screening age. But based on recent findings, the risk of colorectal (colon and rectum) cancer is steadily increasing among younger adults. In particular, a 2017 study [1] published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) discovered that the colorectal cancer mortality rates among young adults have been escalating since the mid-90s. Even worse, the reason for this trend is not clear.

Colon Cancer Statistics

According to American Cancer Society [2], colorectal is the third most common cause of cancer-related death in the United States among men and women. The condition is expected to cause over 51,000 deaths in 2019, with nearly 150,000 new cases diagnosed. As one of the most lethal forms of cancer, the increased risk among young adults is a cause for concern.

The study [1] by researchers affiliated with the American Cancer Society looked at the colorectal cancer diagnoses and deaths among adults (20-54 years) in the United States between 1970 and 2014. Their findings showed that the mortality rates dropped by 2% annually from 1970 until 2004, before increasing at an average of 1% every year annually between 2004 and 2014. Even more perplexing, the death rate increased in white people and decreased in black people – despite exposure to similar risk factors.

Although the exact reasons behind the worrying statistics are not clear, experts speculate that dietary supplements, smoking, alcohol, obesity, and other lifestyle factors might play a part. Another concern among medical practitioners is the late diagnosis of colorectal cancer among young adults. While the survival rate is 90% when diagnosed at an early stage, the thought of regular screening doesn’t often cross the minds of younger people.

Most victims only seek medical attention when they experience symptoms such as persistent abdominal cramping or rectal bleeding – and at that point, the cancer is at a later stage. Due to this trend – among other reasons – the American Cancer Society updated its screening guidelines [3] by lowering the recommended age to 45 years, rather than 50 years.

Tips To Lower The Risk Of Colon Cancer

Regardless of your age group, there are a few simple measures you can take to minimize the risk of colorectal cancer.

• Medical checkups to identify the irregularities such as abnormal levels of hemoglobin and iron deficiency, which can be signs of colon cancer

• Regular exercise – According to an article4 in the British Journal of Cancer, regular physical activity reduces the risk of colon cancer by up to 24%

• Drink water frequently

• Eat a healthy diet, paying attention to foods rich s in fiber such as lentils, broccoli, and whole grains


[1] Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D., & Jemal, A. (2017). Colorectal cancer mortality rates in adults aged 20 to 54 years in the United States, 1970-2014. Jama, 318(6), 572-574.

[2] ACS. (2019). Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer. Retrieved 14 November 2019, from

[3] ACS. (2019). American Cancer Society Guideline for Colorectal Cancer Screening. Retrieved 14 November 2019, from

[4] Wolin, K. Y., Yan, Y., Colditz, G. A., & Lee, I. M. (2009). Physical activity and colon cancer prevention: a meta-analysis. British journal of cancer, 100(4), 611.

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