Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service

SEATTLE — A new report on the rising rates of colorectal cancer among young people is sparking concern and action on what to do to prevent the deadly disease.

While rates for people younger than 50 have gone up in recent years, Dr. Andrew Feld, a gastroenterologist at Kaiser Permanente in Washington, says the vast majority of cases — about 90 percent — occur in the over-50 population.

Overall, rates of colorectal cancer have decreased in recent decades.

Feld says symptoms include rectal bleeding and that one of the most important prevention tools is understanding your family history.

He says this study is a good wake-up call for young people.

“One of the things the article would bring out is if you have symptoms, don’t think, ‘Well, it can’t possibly be cancer because I’m too young,'” he states. “Often it won’t be, so we don’t want to scare people, but we don’t want them to ignore symptoms.”

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and the third leading cause in women.

For the older population, Feld says it’s most important to be part of a screening program.

Generally, there are two paths. Feld says annual stool-based screening tests might work better for people who don’t want to have colonoscopies, which are recommended every 10 years for people with no family history of the cancer and no symptoms.

He says no matter which method people choose, just make sure to get screened.

“The reason screening programs for colon cancer tend to be effective is it takes a long time to go from a normal colon to a small polyp to a medium-sized polyp to a big polyp to a cancer,” he states. “So, you have a lot of time to intervene.”

Feld says while colorectal cancer is common, it can be caught in its early stages and treated effectively.

 

Washington News Service is a part of the Public News Service, an independent member-supported national news service based in Boulder, Colo., that distributes public interest news and information. Support comes from grants, gifts and memberships from individuals, foundations, nonprofit organizations and businesses for social responsibility.

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