(NewsNation) — A new report from the American Cancer Society shows an alarming rise in colorectal cancer in young people.
The number of young people being diagnosed with colorectal cancer has more than doubled since 1991, with one in five cases reported in people under 55. More than half of those cases are already in the advanced stages of the disease when diagnosed.
One notable case was that of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer at the age of 43, shocking fans who were unaware of his illness.
Certain regions showed higher rates of colorectal cancer than others, namely parts of the South and Midwest. Native American and Black communities also had higher colorectal cancer rates.
Researchers and physicians aren’t sure why there has been an increase in younger patients, though some speculate that dietary factors play a role. Known risk factors for colorectal cancer include a diet low in fruits and vegetables and fiber but high in processed meat, being overweight, a lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption and tobacco use.
But those risk factors may not completely explain the rise, and other physicians theorize there are environmental changes that may be affecting people’s gut microbiomes and raising the risk of cancer.
Signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer include bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia and changes to bowel movements. These can also be symptoms of other diseases, and doctors suggest the increase in advanced cases is because doctors may be more likely to attribute those symptoms at first to a different cause in younger patients.
Current guidelines suggest people begin getting screened for colorectal cancer at the age of 45. While a colonoscopy is the standard method of screening, there are alternative options for those who are nervous about undergoing that procedure.