When Chadwick Bozeman died in 2020 at age 43 after a battle with colon cancer, it opened many people’s eyes to the rising rates of this cancer among young men like him. This month, a new report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) confirms that we need to keep paying attention: it clearly shows how colorectal cancer rates are rising in young people.
Colorectal cancer is a significant risk: it is currently the third leading cause of new cancers and cancer deaths in men (behind lung and prostate). And while colorectal cancer rates are falling among people age 65 and older, they’re rising among younger people, especially men.
Here’s a look at the situation, according to recently released ACS data:
- Men are more at risk: The incidence of colorectal cancer in the United States was 33% higher in men than in women.
- The incidence of colorectal cancer is not immune to health disparities: The incidence is highest in people who are Alaska Native, Native American, and black. There are similar disparities in mortality.
- Young people are vulnerable: In 2019, 1 in 5 colorectal cancers affected people aged 54 and under. That’s up from 1 in 10 in 1995.
Fortunately, scientists are working hard to figure out why and what to do about it. As we’ve previously reported in an in-depth analysis of why so many otherwise healthy young men are diagnosed with colon cancer, research teams at places like the Young Onset Colorectal Cancer Center in Dana- Farber and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center dedicate their lives to figuring out what’s behind it all.
What drives colorectal cancers
The ACS states that the most important risk factor for colorectal cancer is a family history of the disease. So if someone in your immediate family (a parent, sibling, or child) has had colorectal cancer, your risk is higher and you should talk to your doctor about getting screened sooner than later. your peers. Currently, people at average risk are recommended to begin screening at age 45.
Lifestyle factors also contribute to risk. Specifically, an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption all increase the risk.
But that still doesn’t explain why so many young men are now being diagnosed with late-stage cancer. One possibility is that increased screening results in increased diagnoses. Other possibilities include imbalances in the gut microbiome, possibly also due to lifestyle factors.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
While the recommended age for screening has risen from 50 to 45, colorectal cancer continues to rise in younger men. It’s important for all guys, even if you think you’re “too young” for colorectal cancer, to pay attention to symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer. MH counselor Felice Schnoll-Sussman, MD, has written about young men and colon cancer for Men’s Health, and cannot stress enough the importance of listening to your body.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer can include:
• Rectal bleeding
• Blood in the stool or on toilet paper
• Changes in the stool, such as stricture or changes in consistency
• Nausea, stomach pain, bloating
• Other new or different bowel symptoms or habits.
If you notice any of these effects, see a doctor. Many cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed because people recognized these symptoms and sought care.
Screening for colorectal cancer doesn’t have to be a big deal
Many new screening methods for colorectal cancer have recently appeared on the market. Although colonoscopies are the gold standard for diagnosis, there are many other tests available for routine screening (again, if you have symptoms, see a doctor. Don’t just screen at home ).
Just be aware that home testing seems very easy, but involves a certain amount of rummaging through your own poop or wrapping it up to send in the mail. So sometimes it’s easier to go the colonoscopy route. Here’s the lowdown on all of today’s best screening methods and what they require. And if you choose colonoscopy, you don’t necessarily need sedation (check out one guy’s experience here). No matter how you do it, get tested if you qualify because of your age and family history or if you have symptoms at any age.
Marty Munson, currently director of health at Men’s Health, has served as health editor at properties including Marie Claire, Prevention, Shape and RealAge. She is also certified as a swimming and triathlon coach.