Colorectal cancer in young adults: New study explains why early warning signs shouldn’t be dismissed

A new study clearly shows that no matter what your age is or how far that 50-year mark is for you, if you observe any symptoms of colorectal cancer, you should consult a doctor immediately

Myupchar June 04, 2020 22:22:59 IST
content powered by

It has become a predominant type of cancer in western countries in recent years, and yet, knowledge about colorectal cancer is not common, especially among younger adults. This is not surprising since the basic understanding that people have about colorectal cancer suggests that its risks increase only as you get much older.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 90 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in those who are aged 50 years or above, and mentions how having inflammatory bowel disease, a family medical history and a genetic predisposition like Lynch syndrome increases the risks of this type of cancer. However, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology begs to differ on the age risk of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer in young adults New study explains why early warning signs shouldnt be dismissed

Representational image.
Image by PDPics from Pixabay

Yes, younger adults can get colorectal cancer

The study, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was based on  an online survey that was launched via multiple channels of social media. The survey was completed by 885 patients and survivors of colorectal cancer.

The results of the survey indicated that the median age of diagnosis for colorectal cancer was 42 years in this subject pool — which is much lower than both, the CDC’s 50 years and above for higher risk factor, and the American Cancer Society’s 45 years for screening of average-risk patients. Most patients indicated that they weren’t even aware this cancer could occur before the age of 50, which is why a majority waited too long after symptoms emerged to get a doctor’s consultation.

This, in turn, delayed their diagnosis and treatment. What’s more, a significant number of patients felt that their doctors were dismissive of their symptoms, and many young patients indicated that their doctors did not discuss fertility preservation methods with them. The latter is vital because cancer treatments often affect fertility, which later makes it difficult for recovering patients — especially young patients with full lives ahead — to plan a family and have children.

What you should look out for

This new study clearly shows that no matter what your age is or how far that 50-year mark is for you, if you observe any symptoms of colorectal cancer, you should consult a doctor immediately.

If you feel that your doctor is dismissive even though your symptoms aren’t subsiding — symptoms of colorectal cancer often coincide with infections, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, which are easier to treat and manage — insist on getting screened for colorectal cancer. Of course, it also helps to know your family medical history and any occurrence of colon or rectal cancer.

The following are some of the key symptoms of colorectal cancer according to the American Cancer Society, that you should look out for.

  • Diarrhea, constipation, narrowing of stool of other changes in bowel movements that last more than a few days.
  • Feeling that bowels have not cleared even after bowel movements.
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Dark stool or blood in stool
  • Cramping or abdominal pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

For more information, read our article on Colorectal Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Updated Date: