The rates of rectal and colon cancer have been declining for decades. That may be in part because of screening through colonoscopies. Most such cancers occur in middle-aged and older people. The usual recommendation is for people at average risk to have a colonoscopy at age 50 and one every 10 years after that.
Younger People Are Now Being Diagnosed with Colon Cancer:
An alarming new trend has recently been detected. People born after 1990 are at double the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer. These individuals are still young when their cancers are diagnosed. While the absolute risk remains low, this increase is dramatic and worrisome.
Physicians do not normally screen young people for colorectal cancer. Unless a young person has significant symptoms, he or she may not undergo a colonoscopy. As a result, the diagnosis of colon cancer might be delayed. This has implications for treatment as well, since a delayed diagnosis could mean a more advanced cancer.
Preventing Colon Cancer:
These alarming data suggest that it is more important than ever for young people to avoid junk food, eat their vegetables and get regular exercise. People who do not smoke and who maintain a healthy weight may be able to keep their risk relatively low.