Colorectal cancer rates are on the rise for adults under 50

A recent research letter written by an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) provides updated information on colorectal cancer death rates.

For reasons that researchers do not yet understand, colorectal cancer death rates for adults under 55 years old have been on the rise since the 1990s.

Colorectal cancer causes more deaths among men and women than any other type of cancer except lung cancer. Every year, around 135,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 50,000 of them will die from it annually.

The good news is that people diagnosed with Stage 1 colorectal cancer—the stage where cancer has not spread to lymph nodes—have an excellent prognosis. Studies show that around 90% of these patients have the same five-year survival rate as people who never had been diagnosed with cancer.

Unfortunately, this is not true for Stage 4 colorectal cancer—the stage where cancer has spread to other parts of the body.  According to research, only 11% of these patients have the same five-year survival rate as the general population.

Some oncologists (cancer doctors) have found that late-stage colorectal cancer is appearing in younger patients, far younger than the 50-year-old age where guidelines recommend regular colonoscopy screening.

The recent JAMA research letter found that, from the following increases in colorectal cancer rates, using death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics:

· 20s age group: 0.1% annual increase from 1988-2014

· 30s age group: 1% annual increase from 1994-2014

· 40s age group: 1.4% annual increase from 2004-2014

Increased risk factors for colorectal cancer

There are a number of factors that increase the risk for developing colorectal cancer. First, is age. Over 90% of colorectal cancer cases take place and people who are 50 years older over. In addition, other significant risk factors include an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis; a history and yourself or your family of colorectal polyps or cancer; and some genetic conditions.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised that some lifestyle factors can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. These include being overweight or obese, drinking alcohol, using tobacco, having a lack of physical activity on a regular basis, and a diet that is low in fruit and vegetables or low in fiber and high-end fat.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer

In the earliest stages, colorectal cancer may not have any symptoms. That is why physicians recommend following screening guidelines once you reach the age of 50.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include blood in or on your stool (bowel movement); persistent stomach pain and cramps; and unexplained weight loss.

What you can do

If you notice any of the unusual symptoms that are consistent with colorectal cancer, you should see a doctor to get evaluated. Some people choose to wait, thinking that this symptom may be caused from something harmless or might just go away. That could be dangerous to your safety.

Kaiser Health News recently shared a story about a 43-year-old man who saw his doctor after noticing blood stains on his shorts after a run. The doctor initially thought it was hemorrhoids, but did a colonoscopy just to be safe. The man was diagnosed with rectal cancer.

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of cases where patients went to the doctors with symptoms consistent with cancer, but proper testing was not done. Just like patients should not ignore possible symptoms of cancer, physicians are required by the standard of care to order testing to rule out cancer, when it is a potential explanation for the symptoms.

Of course, any delay in doing this work up by a physician can allow time for cancer to progress from a largely-treatable stage to one where it has metastasized and will likely be terminal, leading to death.

If this is happened to you or someone you care for, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free evaluation of your potential case experienced medical practice attorney.


Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas, where he represents patients and their families in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.