5 things young people should know about colorectal cancer


1. Colorectal cancer cases are rising in young adults

While 90% of colorectal cancer diagnoses occur in those ages 50 and older, incidence rates are increasing for young people under 50. The reason behind this growth is unclear. Unfortunately, because these cancers are usually discovered at a later stage, colon cancer deaths among young men and women are rising as well.

Colorectal cancer refers to cancers of both the colon and the rectum.

2. This trend is expected to continue

Studies estimate that by 2030, colon cancer rates in 20- to 34-year-olds will increase by 90% and rectal cancer rates will rise by more than 124%. 

3. It’s important to know your personal and family history

Having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, child) with colon or rectal cancer significantly increases your risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors include a personal history of colorectal polyps, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Lynch syndrome and other genetic mutations.

Most Common Cancers in Young Adults

The cancers that develop in young adults are different than those in children and older adults in many ways. Find out what types of cancers are most commonly found in young adults.

Learn More

4. Knowing your body can save your life

Pay attention to any changes that may be symptoms of colorectal cancer. Do not hesitate to contact a doctor and get any of these symptoms checked out:

  • Changes in your bowel habits — for example, diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in the caliber of your stool — for example, if it becomes pencil-thin
  • Blood in your stool, or rectal bleeding
  • Dark stool (black)
  • Abdominal discomfort, such as pain or cramping
  • A lump in your abdomen
  • The sensation that you need to have a bowel movement, even after you have had one
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness or feelings of tiredness

5. Practicing a healthy lifestyle is imperative for many reasons

While colonoscopies, the standard screening test for colorectal cancer, are not currently recommended for those under 50, there are still plenty of things you can do to take control of your health and lower your risk level of many cancers and diseases, not just colorectal cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a balanced diet is key. Focus on whole grains, high-fiber foods, fruits and vegetables. Limit your red meat intake and alcohol consumption. And, of course, don’t smoke or use any form of tobacco!