At What Age Should I Think about Colorectal Cancer?

Your lifestyle may be increasing your risk of colorectal cancer in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. Learn how to reduce your risk.

If you’re under age 50, you probably haven’t given much thought to your risk of developing colorectal cancer. But maybe you should.

Up until recently, colorectal cancer screenings have primarily focused on adults over the age of 50. And those screenings have been paying off. The overall rate of colorectal cancer in older Americans has decreased over the past few decades. But research published in JAMA shows a steady increase in colorectal cancer cases among younger Americans in recent years.

Colon cancer rates among adults under age 50 rose more than 11% between 2004 and 2013. Based on current trends, the incidence of colon cancer is expected to increase by 90% for adults ages 20 – 34 and nearly 28% for adults ages 35 – 49 by 2030, compared to 1975. Incidence rates for rectal cancer will increase even more. One in seven cases of colorectal cancer is now diagnosed in people under 50 and younger patients have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer at an advanced stage.

Lifestyle factors that put younger people at risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Unhealthy habits, including smoking, lack of exercise and heavy drinking.
  • Excess weight. More than one-third of the American population is obese.
  • A diet high in red and processed meats.
  • Insufficient health education and screening.

Things you can do to lower your risk:

  1. Get regular physical exercise.
  2. Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less red and processed meats.
  3. Know the symptoms of colorectal cancer and don’t ignore them. Blood in the stool is a symptom you should discuss with your physician.

Know your family’s history of colorectal cancer and talk with your doctor about when you should get screened.

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Date Last Reviewed: December 20, 2016

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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