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New research suggests more young adults dying from colon cancer

09 August 2017, 11:37 | Melissa Porter

New research suggests more young adults dying from colon cancer

This graphs shows a small uptick in colorectal cancer death rates among white people. While it may look modest experts warn the sharp rise is statistically huge- and completely baffling

Researchers studied all races and found deaths in white people under age 55 are on the rise.

The report was published August 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "We looked at adults from ages 20 to 54 and following several decades of pretty rapid declines in death rates, over the past decade deaths in this age group have been increasing".

The ACA recommends most people start colon cancer screenings at age 50.

According to the newly published report, death rates from colorectal cancer among White people in the aforementioned age group are rising by 1 per cent each year.

Researchers analyzed National Center for Health Statistics records to determine colorectal cancer mortality rates among individuals aged 20 to 54 years by race. Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society and lead author on the study, said, "This is not good news".

Another striking finding was that the trend is being driven by increases in colorectal deaths among white men and women.

This increase relates only to the Whites: their mortality has climbed from 1.4% per year, reaching 4.1 per 100 000 in 2014 compared with 3.6 % a decade earlier, while that of Blacks has continued to decline by 0.4 % to 1.1 % per year from 1970 to 2014.

Center officials are calling for people to take the results into consideration when receiving cancer treatment to gauge the characteristics of each hospital, while stressing they do not indicate which hospitals are the best.

The increase occurred only in white individuals, whose mortality rates increased by 1.4% (95% CI, 1.1-1.8) annually, from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 4.1 per 100,000 in 2014. In contrast, mortality declined over time for African-Americans, from 8.1 in 1970 to 6.1 in 2014.

Siegel notes that the findings are surprising because they appear to be inconsistent with trends for major risk factors in colorectal cancer, such as obesity.

So what's going on?

"This increase in incidence is real and it's scary, because we don't know what's causing it", said Siegel.

Obesity and the sedentary lifestyle common among many Americans are likely contributing to rising cases and deaths from colorectal cancer, but it's "unclear the extent to which these factors are contributing because of the racial disparity", Siegel said.

Researchers are looking into the matter, but many experts believe that the answer may lie partly in the microbiome, or the bacteria that normally live in the human body.

"This indicates that the increase in incidence is not exclusively due to more colonoscopy use and increased detection, but a true increase in disease occurrence that is of sufficient magnitude to outweigh improvements in survival that have occurred in all age groups because of better treatment", Siegel said.

The important thing for now is to catch the cancer early on. These include rectal bleeding and a change in bowel habits.

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