Colorectal cancer rates are rising among young Americans, according to the most recent report from the American Cancer Society (ACS). Every three years, the ACS publishes updated reports regarding colorectal cancer trends to provide the most current information to the public and healthcare providers. The latest report cites that colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States, which is why updated statistics are vital to understanding and preventing the disease.
In 2020 an estimated 104,610 new cases of colon cancer and 43,340 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, according to the latest ACS report. About 12% or 17,930 of these cases will be diagnosed in those younger than age 50. Additionally, the report estimates that 53,200 people will die from colorectal cancers this year, and 7% of those (3,640) will be younger than age 50.
ACS researchers found that the overall median age of colorectal cancer patients has shifted from 72 years in the early 2000s to 66 years today. According to CNN, scientists were aware of the increase of colorectal cancer in the younger age group, but the co-author of the report stated that they were surprised at how quickly it is occurring. Rebecca Siegal, report co-author and scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, told CNN, “this report is very important because it not only provides a snapshot of the current colorectal cancer burden but also a window to the future.” The report states that colorectal cancer rates have been increasing in adults younger than 50 since the mid-1990s.
For adults aged 65 and older, colorectal cancer rates continue to decrease. The ACS attributes the decline to an increase in screening, which can remove polyps before the progress into cancer. They report that in 2018, 66% of people aged over 50 were up to date with the appropriate colorectal cancer screening.
American Cancer Society researchers also estimate that more than half of all colorectal cases and deaths are attributed to “modifiable risk factors,” including smoking, unhealthy diet, high alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and excess body weight. For example, obese men have an estimated 50% higher risk of colon cancer and a 25% higher risk of rectal cancer. The risk for both in obese women is about 10%.