We know the trends, but why the rise? We sat down with two of the top experts on this topic to get their take on the rising incidence.
No direct cause has been proven to explain this rise in colon cancer diagnoses in younger patients; however the decline in colon cancers in older patients is thought to be secondary to more screening of patients for colon cancer over age 50, and in particular, colonoscopy. It is not felt that colon cancer is a common entity in patients under 50, so they are not as quickly screened when symptoms first appear. Also, screening questions about colon cancer risk (like family history of colon cancer or polyps, etc.) are typically asked only of patients who are older than 50.
The biology and behavior of colorectal cancer is changing, that’s for sure. Why? There are many theories, but no definitive explanation yet.
Here’s what we do know: The communication strategy for colorectal cancer is outdated. By focusing the message of screening and prevention to people who are primarily 50 and older, we miss two important opportunities that matter to both patients and providers.
First, people with family histories should understand the importance and discuss the appropriate time for screening with their physicians beginning at 40 — at least.
Second, patients and providers need to understand the symptoms and signs of colorectal cancer and the importance of prompt evaluation in any age group, especially those in their 30s and 40s.