Younger generations and the increased risk for colorectal cancer

With colon and rectal cancer rates rising in young and middle-age adults since the 1980s, millennials should take note of the latest recommendations for colon cancer screenings, particularly among those born after 1990.

According to a recent study published by American Cancer Society researchers:
“The reason for this increased risk in younger adults is still being studied,” says Hadi R. Najafian, DO, FACS, FASCRS, board-certified colon and rectal surgeon in Sun City. “However, some contributing factors are an individual’s genetics and environment. All millennials need to know if they have a family history, especially an immediate family member who has suffered from colon or rectal cancer, and if so, they should be screened. The person with average risk can begin screening at age 50, but those with high-risk features, such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or unintentional weight loss need to be screened sooner.”

Consider the following recommendations from the American Cancer Society:

  • Patients with inflammatory bowel disease should receive a colonoscopy, including biopsies for dysplasia, every one to two years.
  • Patients with a family history of early colorectal cancer or any first-degree relative who developed colon cancer before age 60 should begin having colonoscopies by age 40.
  • Patients who have familial adenomatous polyposis should begin annual flexible sigmoidoscopy screenings as early as age 10. This is a rare inherited condition, determined by genetic testing, that causes polyps to form in the colon and rectum.

If colon and rectal cancer is discovered, it may be curable. Screenings performed early allow for the discovery of problematic polyps and may help prevent cancer altogether.

The Colorectal Surgery program at Dignity Health – St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center provides a comprehensive suite of colorectal cancer screening options.

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