Under 50? These Choices May be Putting You at Risk for Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal CancerLifestyle choices and high obesity rates contributing to steady increase in cases in younger Americans.

If you’re under 50, you probably haven’t given much thought to your risk of developing colorectal cancer. The focus of colorectal cancer screening and treatment has been, up to now, on older Americans over age 50. It’s been paying off. The overall rate of colorectal cancer in older Americans has decreased during the past decades. But in younger Americans, research shows a steady increase in colorectal cancer cases. In fact, one in seven colorectal cancers is now diagnosed in people under 50, and these rates are expected to keep rising.

You thought you weren’t at risk for developing colorectal cancer – but you may be. The medical community points to these choices that put younger people at risk:

1. A diet high in red and processed meats.

2. Lack of health education and screening.

3. Unhealthy habits including smoking, lack of exercise and heavy drinking.

4. Excess weight. More than one-third of the American population is obese.

What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

  • Get regular physical exercise.
  • Eat more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less red and processed meats.
  • Know the symptoms of colorectal cancer and don’t ignore them.  Blood in or on the stool is a symptom you should always discuss with your physician.
  • Know your family’s history of colorectal cancer and check with your doctor about getting screened.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Ask your doctor if you should be screened.

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Review Date: February 12, 2016
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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