Millennials may be at greater risk for colorectal cancer, study finds

Colon and rectal cancers surge among millennials and Generation X

A new study shows an increase in colorectal cancer in millennials.

Colorectal screening isn't even recommended for most people until age 50, but according to a new study from the American Cancer Society, colon and rectal cancers are on the rise in 20 and 30-somethings. In adults 40 to 54, rates increased by 0.5 to one per cent per a year from the mid-1990s through 2013.

It's this upward trend that is causing doctors like Dr. Bryan Butler.

In the early 1990s, adults aged 50 to 54 were half as likely to develop colorectal cancer as those between 55 and 59. For people in their forties and fifties, the rates of rectal cancer increased 2.3 percent starting in 1996, the study found.

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The American Cancer Society is reviewing its screening guidelines in light of the new data. They found 490,305 patients over the age of 20 were diagnosed with colorectal cancers from 1974 to 2013.

Ms Siegel added: "Educational campaigns are needed to alert clinicians and the general public about this increase to help reduce delays in diagnosis - which are so prevalent in young people - but also to encourage healthier eating and more active lifestyles to try to reverse this trend". The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancers remains small at approximately 4.4 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.

He said, "My youngest patient was 28 years old, and came with the assumption that she was bleeding from hemorrhoids and unfortunately the work revealed there was a rectal cancer that was relatively advanced". However, Bilchik says other studies offer clues such as the many links between obesity and different types of cancer.

In addition, understanding how our current diet - often high in saturates fats, sugars and grains - can affect cancer risk may be key in understanding the rise in colorectal cancer rates among younger adults, Berlin said.

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Wednesday kicks off colon cancer awareness month. Researchers said these young people will carry the same risk as they age unless they take action.

One tip-off is "if your bowel habits change and stay consistently changed", Berlin said. So should all millennials start booking colonoscopies and getting stool tests? The risk of a young person developing colorectal cancer remains overall very low.

He said, "If you compare someone who was born in 1990 to somebody who was born in 1950, the risk of colon cancer has doubled and the risk of rectal cancer has quadrupled".

"The most important question is do we need to screen sooner", Berlin said.

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