Colon Cancer on the Rise Amongst Younger Patients

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colon cancer newsNew research is showing that colon cancer cases are rising among people under the age of 50. One out of every seven colon cancer patients—including both men and women—are under this age, which represents approximately 15% of cases.

The report, published in the journal Cancer, shows that the disease is likely to be more advanced in younger patients because the cancer is diagnosed only after symptoms have shown.

Researchers also report that although younger patients are dealing with more advanced stages of colon cancer, they tend to live longer without the disease returning—mainly because the cancer is treated more aggressively.

Dr. Samantha Hendren, the study’s lead author, said: “Colon cancer has traditionally been thought of as a disease of the elderly. This study is really a wake-up call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colon cancers are occurring in people under 50.”

Only 14% of patients survive past five years of being diagnosed with colon cancer. Twenty-one percent of younger patients can make that claim.

Despite the over 250,000 patients in this study diagnosed with this type of cancer, 15% of whom were under the age of 50, Dr. Hendren doesn’t believe it’s time to start screening patients at a younger age. Instead, she suggests that doctors and patients be more astute in recognizing the signs of colon cancer before it spreads throughout the body.  Symptoms could include dark blood in a bowel movement or blood mixed with stool.

“…A lot of research would be required to understand this before any changes should be made,”

A reason for the increase in colon cancer among younger patients is unknown, according to Dr. Andrew Chan of Harvard Medical School. There are possible factors, however, including obesity, poor diet, and smoking.

According to Dr. Chan: “There may be an effect of our environment that could be contributing to the increase.”

Another recent study shows how coffee consumption might actually increase survival in colon cancer patients. Studies show that drinking coffee on a regular basis can improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; but according to researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, regular coffee consumption may also help prevent the recurrence of colon cancer. They followed 953 patients who were undergoing chemotherapy due to stage three colon cancer, and found that patients who drank four cups of coffee on a daily basis, compared to patients who didn’t drink coffee, were more likely to survive colon cancer. They had a 42% lower risk of colon cancer recurrence!

There were no effects for patients’ who consumed decaffeinated coffee, and study researchers are trying to figure out the exact role caffeine plays in reducing the risk of colon cancer recurrence.

But if anything—it’s a great incentive to get your morning cup of java.

Source for Today’s Article:
Abdelsattar, Z.M., et al., “Colorectal cancer outcomes and treatment patterns in patients too young for average-risk screening,” Cancer, 2016; doi: 10.1002/cncr.29716.