Monday, March 6, 2017

Lead author calls research results 'shocking'

New study says risk of Gen Xers and millennials getting colon and rectal cancer is rising

Americans under 55 — those known as Gen Xers and millennials — are at a greater risk today of colon and rectal cancer than any generation before.

According to American Cancer Society (ACS) and National Cancer Institute (NSI) researchers, those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer than those born in 1950 had at the same age.

And most of those cancers would be in more advanced stages when discovered, a study published today in the Journal of the NSI indicates — probably because routine screening normally isn't recommended for those under 50.

Rebecca Siegel
The lead author of the study, Rebecca Siegel, an ACS epidemiologist, called the size of the increase "very shocking,'" most likely because the surge of younger diagnoses contrasts with the decades-long descent of colorectal cancer cases.

According to a Washington Post story by Laurie McKinley reprinted in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Siegel noted that the drop has been driven by older adults who've gotten regular screenings, including colonoscopies, that detect growths before they become cancerous.

She also suggested that younger people are more apt to be uninsured, which might keep them from seeing a doctor until they can no longer ignore their symptoms.

"We had such great strides just in the past years in insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act," she said — hinting that the situation might change for the worse under the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans' desire to "repeal and replace" Obamacare.

The study looked at nearly half a million cases of colorectal cancer from 1974 to 2013. 

It found that colon cancer rates increased about 1 to 2 percent per year for people in their 20s and 30s, and that rates for middle-aged adults also rose, albeit at a slower pace.

"Rectal rates climbed even faster in recent decades," the story added, "at about 3 percent per year for people in their 20s and 30s and 2 percent annually for those 40 to 54."

Specific reasons for the increases, not incidentally, remain unclear.

The ACS, which predicts more than 95,000 new cases of colon cancer and almost 40,000 of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed this year, is reviewing colorectal cancer screening guidelines.

Research into the risks of diseases is an integral part of "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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