Medical Moment: Colorectal cancer on alarming rise in people under 50, experts warn

Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:59 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

(WNDU) - February is National Cancer Prevention Month.

Experts say it’s important to learn the signs and symptoms of cancer. That way, you know what’s normal and what isn’t, especially when it comes to colorectal cancer.

It’s on the rise and is on track to become the leading cause of cancer deaths in adults under 50. When the “Black Panther” sequel hit movie theatres late last year, it was missing its star, Chadwick Boseman. Boseman died of colon cancer at age 43, focusing attention on what experts call a continuing and alarming health trend.

“We have been seeing a steady uptick in the rates of this colon cancer in young people,” explained Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Dr. Ng (Eng) says the rate of this cancer for men and women under 50 has been increasing by 2% per year since the mid-90s.

“If this trend continues, modeling studies estimate that colorectal cancer will become the leading cause of cancer death in young people under the age of 50 by the year 2030,” Dr. Ng explained.

Dr. Ng says prevention is key for all adults, no smoking, limit alcohol, limit red meat, maintain a healthy body weight, and exercise.

It’s also important to know the signs of colorectal cancer:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Change in bathroom habits
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain

“If there really is a persistent symptom that is not resolving, further attention should be paid to it,” Dr. Ng finished.

The recommended age for a baseline colonoscopy has been lowered from 50 to 45. For some, other screening methods might also be a good option, including home tests.