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New study finds colon cancer rates rising among those under 50

A new study finds colon cancer rates are declining overall, but among Americans under 50 years old — a group not normally considered at risk — the rates are increasing. The reason for the rise in younger people is unclear. Possibilities include the epidemic of obesity, a lack of physical activity, and America’s high fat diet which are all risk factors for colon cancer. Its important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer.

Signs and symptoms of colon cancer include:

A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool, that lasts longer than four weeks; rectal bleeding or blood in your stool; persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain; a feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely; weakness or fatigue; unexplained weight loss. Many people with colon cancer experience no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. When symptoms appear, they’ll likely vary, depending on the cancer’s size and location in your large intestine. If you notice any symptoms of colon cancer, make an appointment with your doctor.

Risk factors

Additional factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:

  • African-American race.
  • Low fiber diet.
  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions.
  • Family history of colon cancer.
  • Lifestyle habits that include smoking and heavy use of alcohol.
  • Diabetes.

Talk to your doctor about when you should begin screening for colon cancer. Guidelines generally recommend that colon cancer screenings begin at age 50. Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier screening if you have other risk factors.

Mayo Clinic Staff Print