Colorectal cancer on the rise in Millennials, Gen Xers

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - One of the top three leading causes of cancer-related deaths is on the rise for a surprising portion of the population.

"Colorectal cancer is not just a disease of elderly people anymore," said Matthew Kalady, M.D. Cleveland Clinic.

Doctors expect colorectal cancer to kill about 50,260 people in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. A new study, released Tuesday, shows a staggering rise in colorectal cancer among Millennials and Generation Xers.

"Generally these people are healthy. They're not even really being seen by their doctors for anything unless they have symptoms," said Kalady.

He said it's tough to pinpoint why this trend is taking place to people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, but doctors have theories.

"There's concern it's a lot of inactivity, obesity, dietary habits, alcohol use, all those kinds of things have been contributing to colorectal cancer in general," said Kalady.

Usually, people don't get a colonoscopy until they're 50, which is why colon and rectal cancer symptoms shouldn't be ignored.

"Usually it's a change in bowel habits or maybe some bleeding with your bowel habits," said Kalady.

He said advanced stages of colorectal cancer are tough to cure, but with early detection, the survival rate is close to 90 percent. Healthy lifestyles and exercise play a big role.

"High fiber vegetable-based diet. Meats are OK, but processed meats in excess is not good," said Kalady.

It's important to follow the medical advice, because this year doctors expect:

  • 95,520 new cases of colon cancer
  • 39,910 new cases of rectal cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about one in 21 (4.7 percent) for men and one in 23 (4.4 percent) for women. This risk is slightly lower in women than in men.

The Cleveland Clinic posted a free colon cancer risk assessment you can take.

Symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Pain areas: in the abdomen
  • Gastrointestinal: blood in stool, change in bowel habits, constipation, narrow stools, or passing excessive amounts of gas
  • Whole body: anemia or fatigue
  • Also common: abdominal discomfort or weight loss

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