Colon cancer deaths on the rise

Henrietta Brewer
August 10, 2017

A new report finds that colorectal cancer mortality rates have increased in adults under 55 since the mid-2000s after falling for decades, strengthening evidence that previously reported increases in incidence in this age group are not exclusively the result of more screening.

"This indicates that the increase in incidence is not exclusively due to more colonoscopy use and increased detection, but a true increase in disease occurrence that is of sufficient magnitude to outweigh improvements in survival that have occurred in all age groups because of better treatment", Siegel said. More patients are cured when the disease is detected early.

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"We're learning more and more all the time about how important the balance of the microbiome is, particularly in the colon and how that relates to health", Siegal said. African Americans on the other hand, actually saw a slight decline in those death rates over the same period.

Japan's National Cancer Center for the first time on August 9 released data showing the relative five-year survival rate of cancer patients at 188 hospitals around Japan - roughly half the number of institutions serving as bases for cancer treatment. After 2004, death rates began to increase slightly each year, reaching 4.3 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.

In light of the increase, doctors like Berlin are suggesting that people start getting screened for cancer before the age of 50. There were over 242,000 deaths due to this cancer in that time frame. "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".

Gastroenterologist and CBS News Senior Medical Editor, Dr. John Lapook said that while the study also found that colon cancer death rates for non-white patients have not gone up, their overall rate is still higher.

There are recommendations in place for children born to families with high rates of colorectal cancer.

While they remain possible factors, risks for colorectal cancer like obesity and sedentary lifestyles are not thought to be playing a hugely significant part, given that they exist across both demographics, which is baffling experts.

Previous studies haven't examined these younger people, Siegel said. Conversely, rates declined in black individuals in every age group. According to US Preventive Services, colon cancer screenings are recommended for individuals ages 50 to 70.

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

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