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Colorectal Cancer Rising: Here's How to Protect Yourself

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By Lynn Allison   |   Friday, 14 Jul 2017 12:11 PM

The rate of colon and rectal cancers has increased dramatically, particularly among the millennials and Generation X adults in America, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society.

As a result, some specialists are calling on federal officials to change U.S. guidelines on screening, antibiotics, and drugs that may be contributing factors.

The study found that someone born in 1990 has double the risk of early colon cancer and quadruple the risk of early rectal cancer as someone who was born in 1950.

Most of the nation’s 135,000 annual cases and 50,000 deaths related to colon and rectal cancer occur among people over the age of 55, but the share of cases involving younger adults has risen to 29 percent for rectal cancer and 17 percent for colon cancer.

“Colorectal cancer had been thought to be a success story,” said lead researcher Rebecca Siegel, the strategic director of Surveillance Information Services in the Intramural Research Department at the American Cancer Society.

Her landmark study describing the disturbing rise in colorectal cancer among younger adults was reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Although rates have fallen among older adults because of increased screening, Siegel says “it appears that under the surface, the underlying risk for colorectal cancer is rising and it is rising pretty quickly among young adults.”

Dr. Andrew Ross, director of the Center for Colo-Rectal Surgery at the Boca Raton Regional Hospital, tells Newsmax Health that this groundbreaking study may indicate the need for changing the current screening guidelines.

“This report about the increased risk of colon cancer among younger people is very interesting,” he says. “The current guidelines recommend screening with a colonoscopy in average risk individuals at the age of 50. If this report is accurate, this guideline may have to be amended.”

Ross points out that since only 10 percent of colorectal risk is genetic other factors, such as environmental and dietary, may be causing this dramatic increase.

“Studies indicate that the increased risk of colon cancer may be more on the right side of the colon, that is the ascending or transverse colon rather than on the left,” he says. “Since the bacterial flora is clearly different on the right side, this may suggest that some of the factors causing the surge may be the antibiotics used to feed farm animals, pesticides in our environment, and even the use of drugs.

“We clearly understand that the obesity epidemic in the United States may also be a causal factor in the increase of this potentially deadly disease.”

Ross suggests that earlier colonoscopies or the newer stool studies which are accurate for analyzing DNA in the stool may be implemented to catch disease earlier by identifying polyps or early cancers.

“Clearly the obesity epidemic needs to be dealt with,” he says. “Smoking may also be an issue we need to confront as well. As a nation, we must also be aware of what we are feeding farm animals and how we use pesticides.

“As a physician, I would also counsel against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics. All these issues need to be addressed in light of this new research. Most of all, awareness of the problem is key. Education about the disease, its symptoms, and its rising prevalence need to be underscored.”

Siegel warns that that today, most young adults get tested only after symptoms develop, “and usually by the time you have symptoms, the disease is more advanced,” she says.

Among the possible symptoms of colorectal cancers are bloody stool, cramps, unexplained weight loss and changes in bowel habits that persist more than a few days.

Known risk for colon and rectal cancers include obesity, inactivity, and diets high in red meat and processed food and low in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Although the new study didn’t examine these factors, Siegel notes that the increases in colorectal cancer occurred as the nation grew heavier suggesting that “there are complex interactions going on between physical activity, unhealthy diets and excess body weight.”

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Colorectal cancers are increasing dramatically among younger Americans, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. As a result, some specialists say federal officials need to change U.S. guidelines on screening, antibiotics, and drugs that may be contributing factors.
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2017-11-14
 

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