HEALTH

Younger colon cancer deaths are increasing significantly

Feb 22, 2024, 12:00 PM

Doctors analyze a screening of a colon...

(American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

(American Cancer Society/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — There’s been a significant increase in the number of people under the age of 55 dying from colon cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related deaths in men under the age of 50. Additionally, it is the number two cancer killer for women under 50.

Dr. Nathan Merriman, the medical director of gastroenterology and digestive health at Intermountain Health, said the worst part is that colon cancer is very preventable and treatable if caught early with a colonoscopy. 

Early screening, early detection

Between 1995 and 2019, the number of people under the age of 55 who died from colon cancer doubled, according to the American Cancer Society.

Merriman said there are symptoms to pay attention to.

“Blood in the bowel movements, abdominal pain, new, different changes in bowel movements that are concerning. Those are reasons to get a colonoscopy early,” said Merriman. 

He recommends that everyone should get a colon cancer screening by age 45. If there’s a family history or someone is having symptoms, they should begin younger. If the screening returns as positive for pre-cancerous polyps, Merriman said to make sure you tell your immediate family members. 

“So, if you have multiple second-degree relatives or other family members with a pattern of colon cancer or advanced pre-cancerous polyps, that really should be shared and talked about as a family,” said Merriman.

Colon cancer prevention

“The recommendations are don’t smoke … eat more vegetables, eat less red meats,” said Merriman. “Stay active, eat a good amount of fiber, and stay hydrated to really help with circulation to keep the bowel movements regular.”

Merriman emphasized that everyone should get their first colonoscopy by age 45 and earlier if there is a family history.

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Younger colon cancer deaths are increasing significantly