Colon Cancer Cases Rising Among Young Adults

hanks in part to improvements in screening, the rates of new colon and rectal cancer diagnoses have been falling in the United States for people ages 50 and older. But for people under 50, for whom routine screening is not recommended, rates seem to be increasing significantly.

Researchers from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center looked at data from more than 393,000 people diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer between 1975 through 2010 who are part of the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) registry. Based on current trends, they predict that by 2030 the incidence rates among people ages 20 – 34 years will increase by 90% for colon cancer and by 124.2% for rectal cancer. Among people ages 35 – 49 years, they predict the incidence rates will increase by 27.7% for colon cancer and by 46% for rectal cancer.

“The increasing incidence of colorectal cancer among young adults is concerning and highlights the need to investigate potential causes and external influences such as lack of screening and behavioral factors,” say the study’s authors. They note that obesity rates have increased significantly in the United States, and obesity is a major risk factor for colon and rectal cancer.

The study was published in the January 2015 issue of JAMA Surgery.