Doctors and researchers around the world have sounded the alarm about a phenomenon that could become a large-scale threat. Colorectal cancer cases are declining in older people, but have skyrocketed globally in those under 50. The incidence in this age group is increasing at a worrying rate of 2 to 4% per year in many countries, with even greater increases in people under 30 years of age. This is warned by two highly respected specialists internationally, Marios Giannakis and Kimmie Ngcolleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard Medical School, in Boston (United States), in a publication in the journal Science.
The US media are already talking about “colorectal cancer explosion in young adults”, especially in those countries where incomes are higher. In fact, they have echoed several cases on a personal level. One of them is the Iana dos Reis, 43, who noticed something like a “bubble” in her abdomen when lying on her side turned out to be stage 4 colon cancer. This meant it had already spread to other parts of her body. The woman began treatment in 2017, at a cancer center in New York. Her husband, Brendan Higgins, remembers how the doctors whispered to each other: “I remember it was a point of discussion at the hospital: they talked about people getting colon cancer were getting younger, more and moreAnd they couldn’t explain it.”
They were in their thirties, forties and fifties. Many of them had had symptoms (such as constipation or diarrhea) that were not related to colorectal cancer because it was not appropriate for their age. That’s why, they already entered with metastases. Finally, Iana dos Reis died in 2019. Although colon or rectal cancer has a cure, early diagnosis is necessary to be able to treat it. Oncologists at Harvard’s Dana-Faber Institute suggest reinforcing early detection programs in young adults. The United States already did so in 2021, when it lowered the age at which doctors are recommended to test for hidden blood in feces from 50 to 45 years. In Spain, screening and early detection programs for this type of tumor are still start at age 50.
Why does colorectal cancer attack more young people?
Doctors Marios Giannakis and Kimmie Ng, foresee in their publication that the Colorectal cancer will become the leading cause of death by 2030 by cancer in people aged 20 to 49, while it will continue its downward trend in people over 50 years of age. However, they acknowledge that “the exact reasons and pathophysiology” underlying this phenomenon are still unknown.
In their writing they list the main hypotheses. Among them, suspicions of environmental or surrounding factors, such as the current lifestyle of young people and the diet they have. On the one hand, smoking or eating too many processed foods, especially meats, junk food and sugary drinks, is targeted. Experts also identify the obesity, sedentary lifestyle and vitamin D deficiency as risk factors.
The truth is that, in our country, colorectal cancer is the cause of the most cases per year and the incidence continues to increase. In 2022, 43,370 new cases were diagnosed, which represents an average of one every twelve minutes, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology in its latest report on cancer figures in Spain. However, there is a lack of data and an official registry that demonstrates this trend of increasing cases of colorectal cancer in young people at the national level.
Symptoms of colon or colorectal cancer
Screening programs are very important because the earliest stages of the disease are characterized by absence of symptoms or because of the difficult detection of these: for this reason, we should not wait to suspect some ailments. The main sign that the human body usually shows is Blood in the stool. If it occurs for no apparent reason and with a bright or dark red color, it is a very significant alert from the body to see a doctor.
Another very important symptom is a radical change in the way you defecate. Abruptly liquid or hard stools are usually a great indication of the appearance of this disease. Also, pain or swelling in the lower abdomen it is also usually a clear symptom of colon cancer. Despite the fact that these last three are the most obvious, we must also control the abrupt weight loss for no apparent reason. Also, a tiredness or dizziness unusual and a feeling that we have not emptied the intestine when we go to the bathroom are key to early detection of the disease.