WILL LOWERING SCREENING AGE HELP BATTLE THIS LATEST TREND?
(Toms River) – The number of Americans under the age of 50 being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is increasing at an alarming rate, according to a new study published by the American Cancer Society (ACS). Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. for men and women combined. Unfortunately, national statistics report that only about 60% of older adults who should be screened are getting tested.
“Colorectal cancer screening saves lives,” said Ocean County Health Department Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer Daniel Regenye. “Colon cancer is not restricted to older adults and the data shows not enough people are getting screened.”
New recommendations by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) – a medical panel formed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – endeavor to offset what experts call a distressing development in American health. A rising number of young people are getting diagnosed with, and dying from, colorectal cancer (CRC).
Of the roughly 148,000 individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020, about 18,000 of those cases will be young people. While the majority of young-onset CRC diagnoses and deaths occur in persons 45 to 49, the rate of increase in young-onset CRC is actually steepest in the very youngest patients. Colon cancer incidence is increasing by 2% per year in 20 to 29-year-olds and rectal cancer incidence is increasing by 3.2% per year in 20 to 29-year-olds and 30 to 39-year-olds. And the trend seems to have no end in sight, as the rate of new colorectal cancer cases in young patients is expected to double by 2030.
However, the good news is that colon cancer remains one of the most treatable, even curable cancers, when caught at early stages. But the pandemic became a huge obstacle for many Americans in need of health screenings and other medical issues.
“A lot of people simply couldn’t pursue important health screenings and other medical issues due to the pandemic,” stated Ocean County Commissioner Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health. “Additionally, cancer screenings may not have been very high on the priority list especially if an individual feels young and healthy. But the OCHD is encouraging these individuals and others to not take their health for granted and should speak with a healthcare provider about getting screened and prevention.”
For years prior, CRC screening was not generally recommended for the below-50 crowd. This led to potentially vulnerable, or even sick adults putting off testing thinking their symptoms did not rise to the level of firm diagnosis. “Because of this lack of awareness, deadly, cancerous growths remained undetected for too long,” Regenye added. “And now, young patients are suffering from more advanced, harder to treat cancers.”
Regenye also stressed that ultimately people of all ages need to avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices that lead to the risk of cancer such as excess weight and obesity, lack of exercise, and diets higher in meats and lower in fruits and vegetables.
The USPSTF recommendation means that insurers will be required to cover preventive procedures such as colonoscopies and stool tests designed to detect colon cancer in early stages.
To learn more about colon cancer and prevention, visit www.ochd.org or www.cancer.org. You can also follow the Ocean County Health Department on Twitter@OCpublichealth or like us on Facebook. Download the Ocean County Health Department mobile app free from the Google Play/Android and Apple APP stores.