The Rise of Colon and Rectal Cancer: What You Need to Know

In the United States, doctors recommend screenings for colon and rectal cancer starting around age 50. However, according to new case studies, screenings should begin much earlier. New findings show that adults in the United States are dying from colon and rectal cancers at an increasing rate about age 50.

What the studies have found

According to a 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. This year, it’s expected to result in about 50,260 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

The new study included data on colon and rectal cancer diagnoses and death reports for adults ages 20 to 54 in the United States from 1970 to 2014. After analyzing the data, the researchers found that colon and rectal cancer mortality rates among 20- to 54-year-olds declined overall from 1970 to 2004, but then increased by 1% annually from 2004 to 2014. In 2014, the total colorectal mortality rate in that age group was 4.3 people per 100,000.
“It’s important to mention that still the risk for colorectal cancer is low in people under 55. We don’t want to be alarmists. The risk is low,” Siegel said, the study’s lead author. In addition, between 2004 and 2014, there were many advances in surgical and chemotherapy treatments for colorectal cancer. All in all, the study “tells us that we need to get messages out for people when they turn 50, they need to call and schedule their colorectal cancer screening, because increasing death rates for people who should be screened is very concerning,” said Siegel.

What you should be doing

Get screened. Screenings can be performed using a fecal blood test, a stool DNA test, a sigmoidoscopy, a virtual colonoscopy, or the standard colonoscopy, according to the National Cancer Institute. The Affordable Care Act required coverage of colorectal cancer screening tests, but patients still should check with their health insurance providers to determine coverage for colorectal cancer screening, which can range in cost.
Pay attention. The study’s findings are a reminder for more adults to get screened and to pay attention to potential colorectal cancer symptoms, which include diarrhea, blood in the stool, cramping or bloating.
Take preventative measures. To reduce your risk of colon and rectal cancers, Siegel recommended maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active, avoiding drinking alcohol excessively, and avoiding smoking.


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