New data from the American Cancer Society show that overall cancer deaths continue to decline, but that deaths from some types of cancer, particularly colorectal cancer, more commonly known as colon cancer, are on the rise.
Colon cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among men under the age of 50 and the second leading cause of death among women under the age of 50 in the United States, scientists say. Currently, it is the third most common cancer in the world, writes Medical News Today.
Why has the death rate from colon cancer increased?
According to Rebecca Segal, MD, senior scientific director for surveillance research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the report, the success of tobacco control and the dramatic decline in lung cancer deaths may explain the increase in colon cancer deaths among both men and women in age up to 50 years.
“It’s also been linked to an increase in colon cancer in people born after the 1950s, for reasons researchers are now studying but likely include obesity, changes in diet, sedentary lifestyles, overuse of antibiotics and even the impact of microplastics on the intestine, etc“, Segal explains.
Dr. Anton Bilczyk, a surgical oncologist and chief physician at St. John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California, who was not involved in this study, believes that another likely reason for the rise in colon cancer deaths may be inflammation.
“Inflammation has been proven to increase the number of cardiovascular diseases, as well as cancer“, he says.
According to Dr. Stephen Lee-Kong, MD, professor of surgery and chief of the division of colorectal surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, who was also not involved in the study, some potential factors that may be associated with increased colon cancer mortality are may be caused by “lack of preventive screening examinations and ignorance of family history”.
What do you need to know about colorectal or colon cancer?
Colorectal cancer affects the colon, part of the colon, and the rectum.
Colon cancer is usually seen in people over the age of 50. However, as scientists note, among young people, the number of colon cancer diagnoses has almost doubled.
This type of cancer usually begins in clusters of cells called polyps that grow inside the colon. Although they are not cancerous, they can develop into colon cancer over time.
Polyps can be detected during regular screening tests, which are recommended for adults between the ages of 45 and 75.
Typical symptoms of colon cancer:
- bloody stools;
- frequent diarrhea or constipation;
- abdominal pain, cramping and/or bloating;
- unexplained weight loss.
The earlier colon cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis: the five-year survival rate is 91% if the cancer is detected before it has spread beyond the colon or rectum.
Can colon cancer screenings help reduce mortality?
“It is necessary to increase screening up to the age of 45 for people at high risk, to increase awareness of the risk and symptoms of the disease, so that people go to the doctor more often for preventive purposes and learn about the disease earlier, so that the treatment is more successful. And to reduce stigma so that patients feel more comfortable talking about the disease and its symptoms“, Dr. Segal explained.
According to Dr. Bilczyk, people need to know that colon cancer and prostate cancer are preventable and that there are very good screening methods. In particular, in the USA, these are home tests from feces, which detect cancer cells in 92% of cases.
Bilchyk also gives basic advice on protection against colorectal cancer:
- do physical exercises at least five days a week for 30-40 minutes at a time;
- avoid processed foods as much as possible;
- limit consumption of red meat, as its excess can cause colon cancer;
- do not ignore symptoms such as rectal bleeding, stomach pain and weight loss;
- don’t smoke
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