The human body, and indeed all living things, can be broken down into its various organs and systems and broken even further down until you reach the most basic unit in any organism: the cell. These are the literal building blocks of our bodies, and each of us has trillions that communicate, divide, and perform an array of tasks to keep everything functioning.
Diseases that affect you on a cellular level can cause symptoms and complications that affect your long-term health, and cancer is one of the most common and dangerous.
Millions of people struggle with different types of cancer, and colorectal cancer is the third most common type in both men and women, with over 150,000 new estimated cases for this year alone and expected to lead to over 50,000 deaths this year. The number of cases of this cancer in younger adults is on the rise, and to understand how we’ve reached this point, we need to look at several factors and what to do about them.
We explore the reasons for the rise in this illness in younger adults by looking at the causes of colorectal cancer, what’s leading to these higher cases, and what you can do to prevent and treat it.
Also referred to as colon, bowel, or rectal cancer, this condition generally starts with polyps (a type of precancerous growth) growing in the inner lining of your colon. Left untreated, these can develop into tumors and can spread to other organs in your body. Cancers develop from uncontrollable cell growth and division when they should die off. While researchers aren’t sure of the exact cause, many factors contribute to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
These include inactivity, obesity, smoking, heavy drinking, inflammatory bowel disease, inherited conditions (Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis), and a family history of cancer or polyps. Dietary habits like eating too much processed meat, bacon, and red meat also increase the chances of this cancer.
Screenings for cancer typically start around age 45 because that’s the population most likely to begin dealing with this condition, with regular screenings between 45-75 years of age. Recent data shows, however, that younger people (more adults under 50) have seen a steady rise in being diagnosed with colon cancer going back to the 1990s, and more of them are dying from the condition than before.
In 2020 alone, almost 18,000 people under 50 were diagnosed with this cancer, a lower number than the greater population of people with this condition but still significant.
The root cause of the increase of younger patients is not entirely understood; however, many factors in general cases of colorectal cancer are likely, such as inherited genetics, Lynch syndrome condition, or familial adenomatous polyposis. Environmental conditions are also considered factors, but research is still ongoing.
The basics for prevention and treatment are the same regardless of when you get diagnosed and depend on the factors that lead to getting it. Family history of this cancer and other genetic predispositions are not preventable. However, you can help prevent it with dietary and lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising more.
Depending on your stage of cancer, medical options for managing this include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medications. The survival rate for this increases when caught early, even though overall survival has improved over the years.
If you’re dealing with colorectal cancer, young or not, there are options to treat it, and we can help. Make an appointment with Dr. Mehta and LoneStar Gastroenterology today to get screened and treated for this and other intestinal conditions.