By Spy Uganda
If you’re under 50 years old and experiencing symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, bloody stools, or anemia, you may want to get screened for colorectal cancer.
That’s because having just one of these symptoms is associated with an almost doubled risk of colorectal cancer (often shortened to colon cancer) in adults under 50, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
With two of these symptoms, the colon cancer risk more than triples. And with at least three of these symptoms, the risk is more than 6 times higher.
“Colorectal cancer is not simply a disease affecting older people; we want younger adults to be aware of and act on these potentially very telling signs and symptoms — particularly because people under 50 are considered to be at low risk, and they don’t receive routine colorectal cancer screening,” senior study author Yin Cao, ScD, an associate professor of at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a statement.
Who Should Be Screened for Colorectal Cancer?
This year, roughly 13 percent of the estimated 153,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in people under 50 years old, according to a study published in March by the American Cancer Society. That’s 9 percent more cases among younger adults than there were in 2020, this analysis found.
Recognizing the rising cases among younger adults, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2021 revised its screening recommendations to urge people to start testing for colon cancer at age 45, instead of waiting until 50.
Because of these screening recommendations and improved treatment options, the death rate among older adults from colorectal cancer has been dropping for several decades, according to the American Cancer Society.
But early-onset colorectal cancer (before the age of 45) is more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage with lower survival odds — which is why paying attention to these red-flag symptoms is important.
Still, many don’t get screened because they don’t want to undergo an invasive colonoscopy, which requires advance preparation to empty the bowels and then general anesthesia during the procedure. Roughly one-third of adults 50 to 75 years old, a group that has long been advised to get screening, don’t do so, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.