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Doctors warn of colorectal cancer rates rising in younger adults | ABC Action News

By: Larissa Scott

Posted at 9:13 AM, Jan 17, 2024

and last updated 9:13 AM, Jan 17, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Colorectal cancer rates are rising among younger adults.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of new cases in people with colon cancer under the age of 55,” said Dr. David Berger, certified pediatrician at Wholistic Pediatrics & Family Care.

Researchers have been tracking a rise in early-onset cancer across the board, but they said colorectal cancer in younger people has been rising at an alarming rate.

“It actually went from nationwide, in just five years, from about 17,000 new cases to about 22,000 new cases,” said Berger.

ABC Action News has been reporting on the rise in early-onset cancer for months, and researchers are working to figure out exactly what is causing the worrisome uptick in cancer in younger adults.

“You know everything is multifactorial. It’s hard for me or any other doctor or specialist to say without a doubt this is the reason why it’s increasing,” said Dr. Michael Hwang, Director of Breast Imaging at Bayfront Health.

However, many doctors agree that lifestyle can play a role in increased cancer risks.

That includes being sedentary, smoking and eating a lot of red meat, sugar and overall processed foods.

“Alcohol consumption has been associated as well. Moderate drinking significantly more than light, casual drinking. There’s also been information about low vitamin D levels,” said Berger.

He believes eating a healthy diet is a good step to take for colon cancer prevention and improving gut health.

“People who have good levels of fermented foods that help feed our microbiome, the good bacteria that are supposed to be in our colon, as well as high fiber foods and what we call pre-biotic fibers that help feed the good bacteria,” said Berger.

Diet isn’t the only thing driving up the colon cancer rate in young adults—much of that is still a mystery as research continues.

That’s why doctors want people to know which symptoms to be mindful of.

study has identified four warning signs that could help alert younger adults to request a screening.

Those include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and iron deficiency.

Early detection is key. The problem is that younger adults don’t typically qualify for routine screenings, which is why experts said paying attention to any new symptoms is important.

Doctors believe the best screening to detect colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy.

“That’s the only screening test that will catch it before it’s cancer,” said Berger.