Addressing the Growing Colorectal Cancer Incidence in Younger Populations

Commentary
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Increasing screening for younger individuals who are at risk of colorectal cancer may help mitigate the rising early incidence of this disease.

Due to the “terrifying” rising incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) in younger populations, it has become critical to perform screening more frequently among individuals even in their late 20s and 30s who might be at risk of developing this disease, suggested Gregory Charak, MD.

Charak, a board-certified colorectal surgeon at Palisades Medical Center and Hackensack University Medical Center of Hackensack Meridian Health, spoke with CancerNetwork® about his strategies for mitigating the rise in CRC cases among younger patients through increased screening procedures. In the event of weight changes, for instance, Charak said he and his colleagues would not hesitate to perform a colonoscopy to monitor younger at-risk individuals.

According to a news release from The American College of Surgeons, the rate of colon cancer diagnoses has increased by 15% since 2004 in patients ages 18 to 50 years old based on data derived from the National Cancer Database. Compared with this younger population, the rate of colon cancer diagnoses has increased by 3% among adults 45 to 55 years old across the same period. Factors such as environmental changes, exposure to toxins, and individual genetics are believed to have influenced this growth in diagnoses among younger populations.

Transcript:

It’s terrifying, and we don’t know what’s going on. Institutionally, or nationally, we’ve certainly taken this step of lowering the age of first screening for colorectal cancer. Now, we advise people with average risk at their first colonoscopy at 45. Personally, and certainly among my colleagues, we are much quicker to perform a colonoscopy and to go looking for something in our younger patients. If you are in your 30s, even in your late 20s, and you’re having changes in your weight or have blood in your stool, we won’t hesitate to perform a colonoscopy because we know that there’s a small possibility—but a real possibility—that there could be a cancer, and so we look.

Reference

Colorectal cancer awareness month: what to know about the rise of colorectal cancer in younger adults. News release. The American College of Surgeons. March 5, 2024. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://tinyurl.com/3ux2hnds

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