Colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults and has been for years

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Yale Medicine doctors warn that people as young as age 20 need to be aware of the warning signs. Photo: Pexels


(Kathy Katella/ Yale Medicine) — Nobody in their 20s, 30s or 40s gets colorectal cancer, right? Wrong. The truth is that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults and has been for years. That’s why Yale Medicine surgeons who treat it are urging people younger than 45—even college students—to talk to their doctors about any suspicious symptoms, such as constipation, rectal bleeding, or sudden changes in bowel movements.

Yale Medicine Colon & Rectal Surgery doctors report seeing young patients with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer more often. They diagnosed colon cancer in a father of four in his 30s who thought for months that his rectal bleeding was caused by hemorrhoids. There was one week when all of the seven patients the practice saw who were diagnosed with rectal cancer were young; the oldest was 35. The youngest colorectal cancer patient diagnosed at this location in recent months was 18.

In early 2023, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reported that 20% of diagnoses in 2019 were in patients under age 55, which is about double the rate in 1995, and rates of advanced disease increased by about 3% annually in people younger than 50. It predicted that, in 2023, an estimated 19,550 diagnoses and 3,750 deaths would be in people younger than 50. (…)

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