Adults in the United States are dying from colon and rectal cancers at an increasing rate about age 50, when they should just be beginning screenings, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.
Since routine screening is generally not recommended for most adults under 50, the cancers found in younger adults are often in advanced stages and more deadly, said Dr. James Church, a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Church, who was not involved in the new study, said he has seen this trend in death rates up close. Last year, on separate occasions, Church saw two 36-year-olds with stage IV colon cancer, he said.
The new study, published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA, is a followup to one that found that incidence rates of colon and rectal cancers are rising in American adults under 50, the recommended screening age. According to the previous study, adults born in 1990 could have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer at the same age had they been born in 1950.
The reason for the rise in both incidence and death rates remains unclear. Colorectal cancer, which includes both colon and rectal cancers, is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women in the United States and the second leading cause in men, and this year, it’s expected to result in about 50,260 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.