What Twenty-Somethings Should Know About Colon Cancer Risks

Ever heard of the phrase “young invincibles”? It refers to people in their 20s who think that nothing bad will ever happen to them health-wise. But a recent study serves as a good reminder that this isn’t always true.

Researchers have found that since the mid-1980s, colorectal cancer rates have been steadily rising among people younger than 50. People born in the 1990s have close to double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared to the risk those born in the 1950s had at the same age. While adults 50 and over are still 16 times more likely to get colon cancer, younger adults often don’t get screened for it (colonoscopies aren’t typically recommended until age 50).

People born in the 1990s have close to double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared to the risk those born in the 1950s had at the same age.

That’s why it’s so important to know the warning signs of colorectal cancers and take the following preventive measures, no matter your age:

  1. Eat right and exercise: Obesity is one of the suspected causes for the rise in colon cancer diagnoses. In addition to losing weight, eating enough fiber and staying active on a regular basis are easy ways to reduce your risk.
  2. Know the symptoms and be honest with your doctor: Discussing your bathroom habits isn’t going to be comfortable, but if you experience any irregular symptoms (e.g., changes in stool color, consistency or shape; cramps or pain; weakness and fatigue; unintended weight loss) be honest with your doctor about it. Early detection is crucial with colorectal cancers, and your doctor will be able to direct you to the right specialist and determine a course of treatment.
  3. Learn your family history: People with a family history of colon or rectal cancer are at higher risk for the disease. Talk to your parents to find out if any relatives had the disease and at what age—then make sure to mention that info when you see your doctor.

Photo credit: Luigi Morante

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