Heavy alcohol and tobacco consumption, lack of physical activity and low fruit intake are a list of factors that have been linked to individuals who developed colorectal cancer, according to the Colon Cancer Coalition.
It shows colon cancer deaths are on the rise among younger adults and no one knows why. CRC mortality overall is declining rapidly, masking trends in young adults, which have not been comprehensively examined.
Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the researchers analyzed colorectal cancer deaths in people aged 20 to 54 from 1970 through 2014.
Whites in their 40s saw deaths from colon cancer jump nearly 2 percent annually from 2005 to 2014.
Earlier this year, researcher Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society published a startling report showing that colon and rectal cancer incidence is rising among Gen X and millennials while falling in older generations. They observed that between 1970 and 2004, the mortality rate has declined from 6.3 to 3.9 per 100 000.
For other ethnic groups, the combined mortality rate declined from 1970 to 2006 and then stabilized. From 2005 to 2014, mortality increased by 1.9% (95% CI, 1.2-2.5) annually for those aged 40 to 49 years, and by 0.9% (95% CI, 0.1-1.6) annually for those aged 50 to 54 years.
The analysis of mortality rates contained another surprise: They are also rising for white men and women in their 50s despite the actual cancer incidence decreasing and screening recommended for this age group for decades.
"Colorectal cancer death rates are increasing in people in their early 50s, for whom screening has been recommended for decades", Siegel said.
Medical oncologist Dr. Shagufta Naqvi said a person's likelihood of developing the disease is more complicated than just their age.
Colorectal cancer rates have been increasing in recent years for Americans below the age of 55, and scientists are unsure why.
"Delayed initiation of screening is likely behind these lower rates, as well as other barriers like insurance coverage, which is lower in ages 50 to 54 years than older adults because of the universal coverage offered by Medicare beginning at 65 years", Siegel said.
Siegel notes that the findings are surprising because they appear to be inconsistent with trends for major risk factors in colorectal cancer, such as obesity. "This suggests that the obesity epidemic is probably not wholly responsible for the increase in disease".
It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America and it's on the rise.
Maintain a healthy bodyweight.
Experts are divided as to whether the findings should prompt a change in screening guidelines. Those at average risk for colorectal cancer should schedule a colonoscopy at age 50 years.
For more on colon cancer, visit the American Cancer Society. The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.
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