Healthy Living: Colon cancer rates rising among millennials, study finds

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New research finds rates of colon cancer are rising among millennials, especially those between the ages of 20 and 30-years-old.

"We're all wondering why younger patients are getting cancer at this rate and none of us are totally sure," said Dr. Erin O. Lange, a colorectal surgeon with UW Medicine.  "We are considering environmental factors, dietary factors to wonder if this is something specific to our part of the country, our part of the world versus other areas."

Dr. Lange says colon cancer diagnoses increased 1-2% per year in people 20 to 30 through 2013.

"In colon cancer, our advantage is that we can identify polyps which are precancerous, remove them and prevent them from developing a cancer," said Dr. Lange.

Even more concerning is research released by the Colorectal Cancer Alliance found 71% of young people diagnosed are already in the advanced stages, partly because they ignored the symptoms.

"I think important preventative measures from a colon cancer standpoint are to pay attention to your body," said Dr. Lange. "Patients should be encouraged to pay attention to those symptoms and to take them seriously - to talk with their doctor about things that don't seem right about their body and to aslo understand and know their own family history."

According to the Centers for Disease Control symptoms for colon cancer may include:

  • Blood in stool
  • Stomach pain, aches or cramps that won't go away
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you notice those symptoms it's important you see a doctor to have it check out.  It's also recommended people start getting regular screenings, which includes a colonoscopy when they turn 50-years-old or earlier if they have symptoms or a family history of colon cancer.

"If you've had a family member who's had colon cancer, experts are recommending that you have your first colonoscopy ten years prior to the age at which your family member was diagnosed with cancer," said Dr. Lange.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women according to the CDC.


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