Reasons Why Colon Cancer Is On The Rise In Younger Adults
Colon cancer, once predominantly associated with older adults, is on the rise among younger individuals. This alarming trend has raised concerns within the medical community and underscores the importance of understanding the factors contributing to this increase. In this article, we will explore several key reasons behind the surge in colon cancer cases among younger adults and the urgent need for early detection and prevention measures.
Understanding the Rise of Colon Cancer in Younger Adults
Traditionally, colon cancer has been more common in individuals aged 50 and above. However, recent years have witnessed a troubling shift, with a growing number of diagnoses in people under 50. This shift demands a closer look at the following contributing factors:
1. Changing Lifestyle and Dietary Habits
Modern lifestyles often include diets high in processed foods, red meat, and sugar, while being low in fiber. These dietary choices can contribute to obesity, a known risk factor for colon cancer. Additionally, a lack of physical activity further compounds this risk. A sedentary lifestyle and poor diet can create an environment conducive to cancer growth.
2. Lack of Awareness and Screening
Younger adults may not be aware of the risk factors and symptoms associated with colon cancer. Consequently, they may delay seeking medical attention or regular screenings. Early detection through screenings like colonoscopies can significantly increase the chances of successful treatment, but this can only happen if individuals are aware of the need for such screenings.
3. Genetic Factors and Hereditary Conditions
While lifestyle factors play a significant role, genetics also contribute to an individual’s risk of developing colon cancer. Some people have a family history of the disease, or they may carry genetic mutations, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis, which increase their susceptibility. These genetic factors can predispose younger individuals to colon cancer.
4. Increased Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Our environment exposes us to various toxins and carcinogens that can accumulate in the colon over time. Prolonged exposure to these substances, such as certain chemicals or pollutants, may increase the risk of developing colon cancer, especially in younger individuals who have a longer lifetime of exposure ahead.
5. Sedentary Lifestyle and Obesity
Being overweight or obese is a well-established risk factor for colon cancer. Inactivity and excessive body fat can lead to chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances that promote cancer growth. The rise in sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates among younger adults has likely contributed to the increased incidence of colon cancer in this demographic.
Alarm signs to watch out for:
Following are some of the symptoms, that may result due to colon cancer, and hence should not be neglected –
1. Bleeding per rectum
Bleeding from the rectum is commonly a symptom of piles. However, if the bleeding is persistent to such an extent that it causes fatigue, one should get it evaluated. In those aged 50 years and above, a colonoscopy is essential.
2. Anorexia and Weight loss
Anorexia (loss of appetite) and sudden, unexplained weight loss, especially along with bleeding per rectum, should be investigated carefully.
3. Alternate diarrhoea and constipation
A change in stool consistency, alternating between diarrhoea and constipation, can be a result of colon cancer.
4. Abdominal pain and Mucus in stools
The presence of sticky mucus in stools, especially in association with lower abdominal pain warrants a clinical examination.
Tests to diagnose colon cancer:
Depending on the symptoms, your doctor may advise one or a few of the following investigations
- Complete Blood Count: To rule out anaemia
- Stool examination: To look for evidence of occult blood
- Ultrasonography of Abdomen: This may be suggested in cases of abdominal pain, anorexia, or unexplained weight loss.
- Per rectal examination and Proctoscopy: This is done by your surgeon in OPD at first consultation. Growths upto 3 cm from the anal verge can be detected by this clinical examination.
- Colonoscopy: This is the gold standard in the diagnosis of colon cancer. A flexible endoscope is used to check the colon for evidence of any suspicious growth and take a biopsy as well. The procedure is done under sedation, thereby ensuring the patient has no pain or discomfort.
Conclusion: Urgent Need for Early Detection and Prevention Measures
The rising incidence of colon cancer in younger adults is a cause for concern. To combat this trend, it is crucial to raise awareness about the risk factors and symptoms associated with the disease, promote healthier lifestyles, and encourage regular screenings. Early detection through screenings and adopting a healthier lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer and improve outcomes.
It’s important for both individuals and healthcare providers to recognize the changing landscape of colon cancer and take proactive steps to address it. By understanding the factors contributing to the rise in colon cancer among younger adults, we can work together to reverse this trend and ensure a healthier future for all.