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Colon Cancer is on the Rise in Young People – What to Know and When You Should Get Tested

We’ve all heard the recommendation from doctors to test early on for breast or skin cancer. Still, another cancer is becoming more prevalent each year—colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer). This type of cancer is becoming more commonplace across the board and specifically rising in younger people under 50.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the rate at which the younger population is getting diagnosed, when you should get tested, and what tests are the best option for you.

 

Colon cancer is rising for people under 50

For some time, colon cancer rates dropped, but from 2012 through 2016, it increased yearly by two percent in people younger than 50 and one percent in people 50 to 64. For people younger than 50, from 2020 to 2023, there was a nine percent increase in diagnosed cases. Colon cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer for men and women combined in the US. Along with the rising number of diagnosed cases, it’s also become more aggressive for people under 50.

So, why are colon cancer diagnoses among younger people on the rise? No one can pinpoint this, but the most significant risk factors for developing this illness are living a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, heavy drinking and smoking, high-fat diets, and other environmental factors. Since we can’t pinpoint precisely why this type of cancer is rising, testing for it as early as possible is critical. If you can test early enough, you can prevent the disease from getting worse and possibly, even prevent death.

When should you test for colon cancer?

As mentioned before, early testing and detection can be the key to prevention. There are a few risk factors to consider when testing for colon cancer. You should test if you have one or more of the risk factors below.

  • 45 to 75 Years of age. The ages recommended to get tested for colon cancer are 45 to 75, but this can depend on if you already have one of the diseases listed below.
  • Gastrointestinal/other types of diseases. If you have any of the diseases listed here, you should get tested as early as 45, or in specific cases, even sooner.
    • An inflammatory bowel disease such as Chron’s or Ulcerative Colitis.
    • A family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps (masses in your colon that can become cancerous).
    • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) external icon or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
What screening test/procedure is right for me?

Several screening tests are currently available on the market, as well as more traditional screening procedures. The test may be as simple as mailing in a specimen from the comfort of your home, so speak to your Primary Care Physician (PCP) about what they recommend. Below are the five types of screening tests.

  1. Fecal occult blood test. This non-invasive test checks stool for blood that can only be seen with a microscope. A sample is placed on a card or container and sent to a doctor or a lab for testing.
  2. Sigmoidoscopy. An invasive procedure involving a thin, tube-like instrument called a sigmoidoscope that looks inside the rectum and lower colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer.
  3. Colonoscopy. This is the most common procedure, and similar to sigmoidoscopy. The most significant difference is the colonoscope (small tube) is inserted through the rectum into the colon. Doctors can remove most polyps found while inside using this specific tube.
  4. Virtual colonoscopy. This is a non-invasive procedure using a series of X-rays called “computed tomography” to take pictures of the colon. A computer then puts together those images and checks for any irregularities.
  5. DNA stool test. Similar to a fecal occult blood test, this non-invasive test checks DNA in the stool cells for genetic changes that may develop into colon cancer.

The bottom line is this — don’t forget about colon cancer! With this type of cancer clearly on the rise, especially among the younger population, early detection is the key to managing this illness. Consult your PCP if you have any of the risk factors mentioned in this blog. Healthcare2U’s Direct Primary Care membership connects you with a PCP who is your care advocate and can educate you on which screening test is best for you. Read more about our membership on our website or contact us to speak to a representative.

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