Young Adults and Teens See Alarming Surge in Colorectal Cancer Rates: Study

Colorectal Cancer Rates Surging Among Young Adults and Teens, Recent findings presented at Digestive Disease Week 2024 in Washington, DC reveal a concerning trend: rates of colorectal cancer have skyrocketed among young adults and teenagers over the past two decades.

Analyzing data from 1999 to 2020 sourced from the Centers for Disease Control Wonder Database, researchers uncovered a staggering 500% increase in colorectal cancer cases among children aged 10 to 14. Teens aged 15 to 19 experienced a 333% rise, while young adults aged 20 to 24 saw a notable 185% surge.

“While we don’t know all of the etiologies, I think it (the study) does highlight some of the possible risk factors, like we know that we have increasing rates of obesity within the United States — is that a risk factor? We do eat a lot of processed foods and so is it that we’re not eating the healthy diet recommendations with fruits, vegetables, and a high fiber diet versus our processed foods and a high-fat diet.

Lead researcher, Dr. Islam Mohamed, MD, an internal medicine resident physician at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, emphasized that colorectal cancer is no longer confined to the elderly population. The study highlights the importance of public awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer.

Experts speculate on potential causes for this alarming trend, including modifiable risk factors such as diet and lifestyle choices. Dr. Anton Bilchik, MD, PhD, a surgical oncologist at Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute, suggests preventive measures such as regular physical activity and dietary modifications to mitigate the risk.

“While children might not be drinking alcohol, teens are exposing themselves to alcohol,” she explained. “It’s really important to focus that in terms of our cancer prevention and control efforts about the risks associated with alcohol, tobacco use, obesity, as well as just the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle so we’re not sedentary.”

Dr. Jacqueline Casillas, MD, board-certified pediatric hematologist/oncologist, underscores the importance of further research to understand the underlying factors driving the rise in colorectal cancer cases among young people.

While the study’s percentages may sound alarming, experts caution that the absolute numbers remain relatively low. However, the findings underscore the need for continued vigilance and research efforts to address this concerning trend and implement strategies for early diagnosis and prevention.

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