Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a cancer of the colon or rectum, located at the lower end of the digestive tract. A risk factor for disease is age, and in fact about 90% of the afflicted are over 50 years old. A University of Texas M.D. Anderson study points to a radical and worrisome expansion outside of this demographic that is now encompassing younger populations.
New wave of colorectal cancer in younger populations
The study projects that by 2030, the 20 to 34-year old age group is going to witness an increase in colon and rectal cancers by 90% and 124.2%, respectively. The corresponding numbers for the 35 to 49-year age bracket are 27.7% and 46.0%.
This means that by 2030, about one in ten colon cancer patients, and one in four rectal cancer patients will come from the 49 and under age group.
A CRC action plan for younger populations
Given the limited information, what can we do today to take preventative action?
- Increasing awareness and education, both among individuals and physicians, is essential. CRC symptoms such as rectal bleeding, persistent changes in bowel habits, cramping, and abdominal pain, can lead to differential diagnoses. Ignoring the CRC possibility could prove fatal.
- A shift towards diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less meat, can help reduce CRC risk. People should know that red meats, and even white meats like chicken, have been attributed to the increase in Colorectal cancer risk. Eliminating processed foods from the diet is also a sensible choice.
- Lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, reducing obesity, eliminating alcohol and tobacco, as well as drugs, can all improve chances against CRC.
- Evaluating predisposing factors such as hereditary, biological, and specific environmental factors is important to ensure increased vigilance and remedial steps.
What to do if you are diagnosed with CRC
Do not delay treatment. Early intervention of colorectal cancer may save your life. Treatment of CRC will depend on the stage of the disease and may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.