If you’re under fifty years old, you probably haven’t started to consider your colon health. But you should.

The Incidence Continues to Increase

Over the past twenty to thirty years, there’s been an alarming rise of colon cancer cases in young people. Patients younger than fifty have been experiencing a 2%–3% yearly increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer, especially rectal cancer. Young people account for 10%–12% of all cases in the United States. Early-age-onset colorectal cancer affects approximately 14,000 individuals every year—that’s more than Hodgkin’s lymphoma and even cervical cancer. Of course, patients and providers want to know how to detect colon cancer in this younger population, but timely diagnosis can be tricky for a number of reasons.

Your Diet and the Microbiome

Less than 20% of these colon cancer cases are associated with a hereditary syndrome. Doctors believe the significant uptick is due to environmental and dietary components. Some experts hypothesize that these generations are immunocompromised due to a lack of robust variety in the microbiome, or the network of health-promoting microbes to which we’re exposed. Most agree that the American diet contains too many chemicals that lead to gastroenteric inflammation and carcinogen production.

Recognizing the Signs Early Enough

Researchers are working to identify presymptomatic and prediagnostic strategies to help fight colon cancer in young adult patients. Across the board, colon polyps, diabetes and an unhealthy weight are known risk factors. The trouble is, young people at risk may experience signs of colon cancer—such as abdominal discomfort, rectal bleeding and anemia—but providers are more likely to attribute these complaints to diagnoses more common in their demographic. It's essential to be mindful of colon cancer signs and discuss your concerns with an accredited physician, regardless of your age. 

Consult with the board-certified specialists at GI Associates about your family history, diet and symptoms to take control of your colorectal health today. 

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