October 20, 2017

Colon cancer mortality rates are rising - but mostly for young, white people

10 August 2017, 02:40 | Winifred Adams

Whites demonstrate 'concerning' increase in colon cancer mortality

This graphs shows a small uptick in colorectal cancer death rates among white people. While it may look modest experts warn the sharp rise is statistically huge- and completely baffling

"The unknown mechanism behind the increase in colorectal cancer in whites makes it that much more concerning".

"Although the risk of colorectal cancer remains low for young and middle-aged adults, rising mortality strongly suggests that the increase in incidence is not only earlier detection of prevalent cancer, but a true and perplexing escalation in disease occurrence".

Berlin also noted that a tale tell sign of this could be "if your bowel habits change and stay consistently changed".

"What's disturbing is that colon cancer is detectable and curable when detected early", said Dr. Darrell Gray, of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Colon cancer has seen a decline in reported cases overall, but reasons for a rise among young white individuals remain unknown to researchers.

Dr. Andrew Chan, of Harvard Medical School, said some health officials have attributed the upswing in colon cancer to obesity - a risk factor for the disease. African Americans on the other hand, actually saw a slight decline in those death rates over the same period. However, the ACS's findings may change the recommended testing age.

Researchers say the findings are particularly worrisome because this means the increase in diagnoses in this age group is not exclusively the result of more screening with colonoscopies.

A 2016 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine claimed that colonoscopies don't deserve sole-credit for preventing colon cancer because the screenings aren't capable of determining everything.

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To reach this finding, the researchers analyzed the data of 242 637 people died of colorectal cancer between 1970 and 2014, aged 20 to 54 years of age.

In white individuals, death rates increased from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 4.1 in 2014. It then began to go up by 1 percent annually.

The data, which encompass nearly 250,000 people, come from the National Center for Health Statistics and information it collects from death certificates.

The report was published August 8 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Delayed initiation of screening is likely behind these lower rates, as well as other barriers like insurance coverage, which is lower in ages 50 to 54 years than older adults because of the universal coverage offered by Medicare beginning at 65 years", Siegel said. In addition, a new study finds that deaths from colorectal cancer have also jumped in the same age group. Meanwhile, the rate rose 1.6 percent a year for white thirty-somethings, and about 1 percent annually for whites in their early 50s, the researchers found. Routine screening is generally not recommended for most adults under the age of 50.

Colonoscopy, which is performed by gastroenterologists, is the most common method to screen for colon cancer.

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