The American Cancer Society on Wednesday announced a change in its guidelines for colon cancer screening lowering the starting age from 50 to 45 stating that the change would save lives. The new recommendations apply to adults who are of at average risk of the disease.
Over the last 20 years since colon cancer screening has increased, we have seen a gradual decrease in the incidence of colon cancer in patients over 50, but there has been a dramatic increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer among patients younger than 50.
Since 1994 there has been a 51 percent increase in the rate of the disease in patients under 50 and unfortunately the death rate has also begun to rise. The reason for the rising incidence in younger patients is unclear. It may be related to the obesity epidemic, poor diets high in processed foods, altered bacteria in the gut, or other factors. What is clear is that a disease that used to be rare in patients under 55 is now relatively common. Furthermore, the disease can be both debilitating and deadly.
Can Colon Cancer be Cured?
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among adults in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, more than 97,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 43,000 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer. About 50,000 people are expected to die of colorectal cancer this year. If caught early, colon cancer is highly treatable with good outcomes and a high survival rate. Furthermore, the disease is can be prevented through early detection of precancerous polyps. Colonoscopy is the only way to detect and treat these lesions before they turn into cancer.
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