Colorectal cancer cases rising in young people

colorectal cancer

A new study in the US shows that more people below the age of 5o years are now being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. 

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A new report shows that more young people are getting a positive diagnosis of colorectal cancer, a disease that previously manifested in older adults.

Chadwick Boseman of the Black Panther movie fame, died of colon cancer at the age of 43 after battling the disease for about four years. Colorectal cancer can either be named colon cancer if it starts from the colon, or rectal cancer when it starts from the rectum.

A report published by the American Cancer Society predicts that this year alone, about 20,000 adults below the age of 50 in the United States will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Previous studies on this type of cancer show that 60 to 70 per cent of its cases are from older people aged 65 and above.

“Colorectal cancer in the elderly is common, shows differing clinical and biologic features and can be detected and prevented using several screening strategies,” stated an old study published in the National Library of Medicine.

“Despite overall declines during the past decade, incidence rates increased by about 2 per cent per year in individuals younger than 50 years of age and were stable in those 50-64 years of age,” states the new survey.

The report does not show why the cases are going up in young people, but other articles suggest that lifestyle changes, especially in diet, as well as genetics could be potential reasons, but there is no scientific backing yet.

The study also showed that men are more susceptible to getting the disease compared to women.

“Although the risk of colorectal cancer is higher in men than in women, the number of new cases in people aged 65 years and older is similar because of higher life expectancy in women,” the study states.

There is minimal new data on colorectal cancer in Kenya. The National Cancer Task Force released a report last year that highlighted colorectal cancer as one of the most common types of cancers in the country. It also indicated that there is limited funding for cancer prevention and control as well as research both in capacity and availability to inform policy.

According to the report, in the country, level four or five hospitals are the only ones likely to provide colonoscopy services.

“Only 1 per cent of facilities reported having colonoscopy services or did stool guaiac tests, which are the recommended screening tests for colorectal cancer. Treatment options for colorectal cancer were not readily available, with surgical interventions at 2 per cent and none of the sampled facilities offering radiation or chemotherapy,” stated the report.

It also showed that the Health ministry is yet to conduct any form of colorectal cancer screening pilot that will enable population-level rollout as recommended by the World Health Organization because there are no funds set aside for that. The task force also found that there are few trained specialists in the country that can treat the disease.

A 2020 study conducted at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet County showed that there was an increase in colorectal cancer cases.

“Mounting colorectal cancer rates should caution the medical community to no longer assume that it is uncommon in places like rural Kenya. This realisation has implications for other resource-constrained settings on how to prioritise early diagnosis and management of colorectal cancer,” said the Tenwek study.

 “All of the possible causes for increasing rates should be further evaluated in Africa, and, regardless of the causes of the trends, healthcare professionals and institutions should be prepared to address the increasing burden of colorectal cancer in sub-Saharan Africa,” it added.

According to an article published by the Aga Khan University Hospital, some of the early onset symptoms of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel habits that makes a patient’s stool thinner than normal, constipation, bright red or very dark blood in the stool, diarrhoea, constant fatigue and discomfort in the abdomen with bloating and frequent gas pain among others.