Younger people are dying of colorectal cancer, but nobody knows why


"I think both the increase in incidents and the increase in mortality in this population does make us consider whether we should change what we're doing from a screening prospective", says Dr. Shepard.

"What's disturbing is that colon cancer is detectable and curable when detected early", said Dr. Darrell Gray, of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Colon cancer is claiming the lives of more younger, white Americans, a troubling new report shows.

This may help explain why women generally have higher levels of empathy and self-control but are also at higher risk of brain disorders like depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer's disease.

Among other races combined, mortality rates declined from 1970 through 2006, then stabilized through 2014.

Colorectal cancer rates have been increasing in recent years for Americans below the age of 55, and scientists are unsure why.

The increase occurred only in white individuals, whose mortality rates increased by 1.4% (95% CI, 1.1-1.8) annually, from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 4.1 per 100,000 in 2014. Meanwhile, the rate rose 1.6 percent a year for white thirty-somethings, and about 1 percent annually for whites in their early 50s, the researchers found. "This indicates that there's actually a true increase in disease".

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In light of the increase, doctors like Berlin are suggesting that people start getting screened for cancer before the age of 50. Although African-Americans are still more likely to die from colon cancer than whites, the rate among African-Americans has declined. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "It is especially surprising for people in their 50s, for whom screening is recommended, and highlights the need for interventions to improve use of age-appropriate screening and timely follow-up of symptoms".

Previous studies haven't examined these younger people, Siegel said.

In contrast, colorectal cancer mortality rates in blacks decreased over the entire study period among those aged 20 to 49 years and since 1993 in those aged 50 to 54 years. The authors note that these disparate racial patterns are inconsistent with trends in major risk factors for colorectal cancer like obesity, which is universally increasing.

While research is ongoing to look into what may be causing this, experts believe the answer may lie at least partly in the microbiome - the bacteria that normally thrive in the body.

Berlin also noted that a tale tell sign of this could be "if your bowel habits change and stay consistently changed".

If caught in the early stages when colorectal cancer is confined to the bowel, treatment results in a cure approximately 50 percent of the time, according to the National Cancer Institute.