Colon can­cers surge among Mil­len­ni­als, Gen­er­a­tion X

Obe­sity, in­ac­tiv­ity and diet among the sus­pected cul­prits

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kim Pain­ter @KimPain­ter

Colon and rec­tal can­cers have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally and steadily in young and mid­dle-age adults over the past four decades, a study con­firmed Tues­day.

Though sci­en­tists have not pin­pointed an ex­act cause, prime sus­pects in­clude obe­sity, in­ac­tiv­ity and poor di­ets, said re­searchers from the Amer­i­can Cancer

So­ci­ety, re­port­ing in the Jour­nal of the Na­tional Cancer In­sti­tute.

“Col­orec­tal cancer had been thought a suc­cess story” be­cause over­all rates have fallen as screen­ing in­creased among older adults, lead re­searcher Re­becca Siegel said. “But it ap­pears that un­der the sur­face, the un­der­ly­ing risk for col­orec­tal cancer is ris­ing, and it is ris­ing pretty quickly among young adults.”

The re­sult: Some­one born in 1990 has dou­ble the risk of early colon cancer and quadru­ple the risk of early rec­tal cancer as some­one born in 1950, Siegel and her col­leagues re­ported. It is likely that Mil­len­ni­als and Gen­er­a­tion X adults “will carry that risk for­ward” as they age, she said.

Most of the na­tion’s 135,000 an­nual cases and 50,000 deaths re­lated to colon and rec­tal cancer oc­cur among peo­ple over age 55. The share of cases in­volv­ing younger adults has risen to 29% for rec­tal cancer and 17% for colon cancer, the study showed. About 11,000 peo­ple in their 40s and 4,000 un­der 40 were di­ag­nosed in 2013.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies picked up in­creases in young adults, but the new study pro­vided age-group de­tails from nearly 500,000 cases re­ported from 1974 to 2013. For ex­am­ple, it found rec­tal cancer rates rose an av­er­age of 3.2% a year among peo­ple in their 30s, start­ing in 1983.

“Any­thing more than about 1% a year is a big change,” Siegel said. Ev­ery age group un­der 50 saw sus­tained yearly in­creases at least that big, while ev­ery age group over 55 saw de­clines, the study showed.

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