"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Colon cancer in people under 45

Until now, adults aged 50 and over with a median risk of colorectal cancer were required to undergo a colonoscopy.

But in May 2021, the US Preventive Services Task Force updated the rules. A colonoscopy is now required at age 45. However, if there’s a history of colon cancer in your loved ones, you must do that sooner.

Current studies show that the disease is increasing amongst people under 50 years of age.

“We have never “More cases of colon cancer are occurring in people this young. It's the only population, under 50, where this disease is increasing and becoming more deadly, not becoming less common and less deadly,” says Mark Lewis, MD, director of gastrointestinal oncology at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.

Lewis particularly points out that “women are at higher risk” of developing such a cancer at an early stage.

Colon cancer is the second leading explanation for cancer-related deaths within the United States, and is anticipated to cause roughly 52,000 deaths in 2023. And while colon cancer is trending downward amongst those over 50, the trend is reversed amongst those under 50.

“If you look at the average age of all my patients in my practice, the average age of all my patients with gastrointestinal cancer is 68. And yet one in seven of my patients is a young adult with colon cancer, and I actually see more women than men,” says Lewis.

So what’s causing this rapid increase in cases? Experts don't know obviously. But lifestyle and up to date changes in environmental aspects could play a task.

These may include:

  • Obesity and chubby
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoke
  • Drinking too many alcoholic beverages
  • Low-fiber diets
  • High-fat diets
  • Eating an excessive amount of processed meat
  • Intestinal bacteria
  • inflammation

According to the National Cancer Institute, people who find themselves obese are 1.3 times more more likely to develop colon cancer.

In the early stages of colon cancer, most individuals don’t experience any noticeable symptoms. But mockingly, the disease is definitely treatable at this stage.

Lewis says you understand your body well, so pay close attention to any “out of proportion” symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer may include:

  • A persistent change in your bowel habits, similar to diarrhea, constipation, or a unique consistency of your stool
  • Blood within the stool (rectal bleeding)
  • Stomach pain or discomfort similar to cramps, bloating, feeling of fullness or pain
  • You don't feel like you might have completely emptied your bowels.
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Unexplained weight reduction

Unfortunately, Lewis has to notice that “you are never too young to get cancer,” especially not colon cancer.

If you notice these signs, refer to your doctor as soon as possible. Make note of any patterns you notice. If you might have a family history of colon cancer, be sure you mention this at your doctor's visit.

According to Lewis, any gut symptoms that “don’t seem to fit with what you know about your body and your cycle should be investigated.”

However, he also admits that it is extremely common for doctors to dismiss complaints similar to blood within the stool as “simple hemorrhoids” or, in women, as a “gynecological problem”.

So what are you able to do? Lewis stresses that young adults, especially women, should advocate for themselves.

“First, you are the expert, the content expert on your own body. You know what patterns are abnormal in you and you should seek medical attention for them. Second, you should know your family history. There is definitely a heredity component at play here,” he says.

If there’s a history of colon cancer in your loved ones, your doctor will often calculate the age of the youngest person in your loved ones to have colon cancer and subtract 10 years. This is the perfect age at which you must begin screening for colon cancer.

If you’re at average risk, you must start having an annual colonoscopy at age 45.

There are a couple of things you’ll be able to do to scale back your risk of colorectal cancer. First, get screened when you're eligible or when you notice early signs of colorectal cancer.

A colonoscopy is among the best screening tests available to detect cancer within the bud and stop it from growing or spreading within the colon.

To have such a test, it is advisable to see a colonoscopist. This is generally a gastroenterologist – a colon specialist – or a general surgeon.

During the procedure, a versatile tube with a lighted camera on the tip is inserted into your colon. If a polyp is discovered—a variety of extra piece of tissue that grows inside your body like a skin tag—it’s removed.

“You have interrupted the disease course of the polyp. It cannot become cancer if it is removed from your body,” says Lewis. “So in summary, know yourself, know your family and know what age you should start screening.”

In addition, you must:

  • Eat a balanced food plan with whole foods, vegatables and fruits.
  • Add whole grains and fiber to your meals.
  • Reduce or quit smoking.
  • Find ways to be more physically lively. You can start with regular walks and work your way as much as more difficult exercises.
  • Limit your alcohol consumption.
  • In general, eat less beef and processed foods.
  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements when you are deficient. Studies have shown that this will likely lower your risk of colon cancer.