butt pic Reports from across Canada show doctors are observing a new trend in colorectal cancer that cannot be ignored nor explained – a “rapid increase” in the number of patients being diagnosed under age 50.
A new study, led by doctors from the University of Toronto, looked at Canadian Cancer Registry data from 1997 to 2010 and found that incidences of colorectal cancer rose by:

• 0.8 per cent per year for people in their 40s,
• 2.4 per cent per year for people in their 30s, and
• 6.7 per cent per year for those between ages 15 and 29.

Thankfully awareness campaigns and advocacy to increase the accessibility of colorectal cancer screening has been responsible for declining rates in people over 50 in the last few years. However, these new reports are a reminder that there is still so much more work to be done.

This year, the CCAC was proud to join forces with the Never Too Young Coalition (N2Y), a branch of Colon Cancer Alliance. Their mandate, like ours, is to raise awareness about the disease, preventative screening and to provide much needed information to the younger Canadian population about the signs and symptoms of the disease, particularly how to avoid a misdiagnosis, which according to studies is occurring more frequently due to the age shift.

Although it is evident that more research is needed to determine the cause of this age shift, we are encouraging doctors and patients to become more vigilant and conscience as the signs and symptoms of colon cancer can often be mistaken for other, less serious issues. The longer it takes for a diagnosis the harder it is treat, which is key in survival.

Risk factors for colon cancer

The fact that incidence is rising only among younger people suggests “lifestyle” factors are at play, but the evidence of this is not concrete. Pay attention to your body and if you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor – take charge of your health!

• Family history of colon cancer or polyps: First and second degree relatives of a person with a history of colon cancer and polyps are more likely to develop this disease, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age
• Genetic Alterations: Changes in certain genes increase your risk of colon cancer. Those with syndromes like hereditary nonployposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) or Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) should be screened earlier than 50
• Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease
• African Americans should be screened starting at age 45, or sooner if you have other risk factors or symptoms
• Lifestyle factors, like eating processed and red meats, a lack of dietary fibre, a lack of physical exercise, obesity, alcohol, smoking, diabetes and genetics

June 5-11 will mark the second annual “Young Survivors Week,” connecting with patients, survivors, and caregivers to create buzz around young onset colon cancer. Join us and N2Y as we spread the word via social media by sharing stories and information to help others understand that IT can happen to anyone.