Scientists have revealed the seven factors that put young men at increased risk of colon cancer, as experts scramble to find what’s causing an increase in the disease.
Once seen as a disease of the elderly, there has been a mysterious doubling in colon cancer cases among young adults in recent years.
Researchers at Indiana University analyzed the medical records of 3,000 men between the ages of 35 and 49, one-fifth of whom were diagnosed with colon cancer.
The study, recently published in the journal Research for cancer preventionanalyzed men’s electronic health records from medical centers and veterans’ databases.
To determine who was at higher risk for early-onset colon cancer, when the cancer occurs before age 50, the researchers examined medical records against 67 factors, including diet, smoking and whether the men were taking over-the-counter medications. .
The graph above shows the seven factors that scientists say increase the risk of colon cancer in younger men.
Among all the factors, the scientists found seven that significantly increased men’s risk.
They were: being of legal age (35 to 49 years); alcohol consumption; a high insurance copay; having a first- or second-degree relative, such as a parent, sibling, or aunt, with colon cancer; have a high disease burden, such as being a smoker; and not regularly using statins or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Dr. Thomas Imperiale, a gastroenterologist at the university and lead author of the study, said the findings do not suggest that all young men start taking NSAIDs or statins regularly because there is a risk of side effects, such as kidney damage.
He told DailyMail.com that most men should instead “look at the other five factors to see which might increase their risk.”
Dr Imperiale said, “This study is important because it brings to the table whether, and possibly how, to screen people younger than 45, below the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening, for consideration of screening.”
‘We know that colon cancer at younger ages is on the rise, although the absolute risk remains much lower even in the 45-54 age group.
“However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to identify the youngest people most at risk for testing.”
He added: ‘Doctors can have a conversation with a patient and say that even though screening guidelines don’t apply until age 45 and you don’t have a family history, you do have some risk factors. Could you consider a non-invasive screening test?
The map above, published in 2020 in the American Journal of Cancer Research, shows the counties with the highest rate of early-onset colon cancer in the US between 1999 and 2017, and are mostly concentrated on the East Coast and southeast
Data from JAMA Surgery showed that colon cancer is expected to increase by 90% in people ages 20 to 34 by the year 2030. Doctors aren’t sure what’s driving this mysterious rise.
The researchers found that men with a relative with colon cancer were more than twice as likely as their peers to develop the disease.
Current alcohol use increased the risk by 75 percent, and having a high insurance copay increased the chance by 61 percent.
COLON CANCER: WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS?
Bowel or colorectal cancer affects the large intestine, which is made up of the colon and rectum.
Such tumors usually develop from precancerous growths, called polyps.
- bleeding from below
- Blood in the stool
- A change in bowel habits that lasts for at least three weeks.
- unexplained weight loss
- Extreme and unexplained tiredness
- Abdominal pain
Most cases do not have a clear cause; however, people are more at risk if:
- they are over 50
- Having a family history of the condition.
- Having a personal history of polyps in the intestine.
- You suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease.
- Lead an unhealthy lifestyle
Treatment usually involves surgery and chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
More than nine out of ten people with stage 1 bowel cancer survive five years or more after their diagnosis.
Unfortunately, only about a third of all colorectal cancers are diagnosed at this early stage.
Most people see a doctor when the disease has spread beyond the wall of the colon or rectum or to distant parts of the body, lowering the chance of a successful cure for colon cancer.
According to Bowel Cancer UK figures, more than 41,200 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year in the UK. It affects about 40 out of 100,000 adults each year in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute.
A high burden of disease increased the risk by 15 percent, while being slightly older increased the risk by 9 percent.
The researchers suggested that taking NSAIDs and statins regularly may reduce the risk of cancer because they affect the production of prostaglandins, a hormone involved in inflammation, in cells lining the colon.
Drinking alcohol can increase risk by causing damage to colon cells and changes in the gut microbiome.
A high insurance copay is a risk factor because it makes people less likely to seek medical care, they said.
Colon cancer usually begins as a small growth called a polyp on the inner lining of the colon.
Over time, the cells in these polyps begin to grow out of control, leading to the development of colon cancer.
People with colon cancer often don’t show symptoms until later stages, when the disease is more difficult to treat, which is why doctors urge everyone, especially young men, to get screened every decade starting in the 45 years.
Symptoms of this cancer include rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, unintentional weight loss, constant abdominal discomfort, and changes in bowel habits.
In the 1990s, only 11 percent of colorectal cancer cases were among people under the age of 55.
But cases have more than doubled, and people in that age group now account for a fifth of all new diagnoses, according to the latest 2021 data.
Amid the rise in early-onset colon cancer, researchers in a separate study of 2020 found that 232 counties in the US were considered cancer hotspots. Ninety-two percent of the hotspots were in the South, and eight percent were located in the Midwest.
It was not clear why most of the hotspots were in the South, but the scientists said this could be due to a larger African-American population, with the disease disproportionately affecting this group, and higher poverty rates leading to less access to medical care.
If caught in the early stages, before it spreads to other areas of the body, the charity Fight Colorectal Cancer says that nine out of 10 colon cancer patients will live more than five years after diagnosis.
But, if the cancer is not detected until stage three, when it has spread to other areas of the body, this drops to 71 percent. At stage four, only 14 percent of patients live another five years.