Although colorectal cancer mortality rates have been dropping steadily for decades, colorectal cancer rates among people under 50 are on the rise. About 5% of patients diagnosed with colon cancer were under 50 years of age in 2010, but that number has increased to approximately 11% as of 2020 [1]. With incidence rates in this population increasing by about 2% each year, this concerning trend has raised many questions about who should be screened for colorectal cancer.

While routine screenings have not been recommended for this younger population until recently, the increase in cases shows the importance of access to colorectal cancer screening. Regular screening with LetsGetChecked’s at-home Colon Cancer Screening Test can enable earlier detection and better health outcomes.

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Increasing colorectal cancer rates among young adults

If current trends continue, by 2030, colon cancer cases are projected to increase by 90% in patients under age 35, and rectal cancer cases are expected to increase by 124% in patients that age [2]. While younger populations have experienced such alarming increases in colorectal cancer incidences in recent decades, screening has primarily been focused on individuals over 50. The cause of colorectal cancer numbers rising in young people is not known for certain, but some contributing factors may include:

  • Environmental factors
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Low-fiber or high-fat diets
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Since young adults can be diagnosed with late-stage colorectal cancer, it's crucial for them to understand their risk and screen appropriately.

The consequences of delaying colon cancer screening

In recent decades, the greatest percent increase in colorectal cancer incidence has been in people between 20 to 29 [2]. This age group is also the least likely to engage in screening. Younger individuals may not seek screening for various reasons, including not having a provider recommendation, lack of symptoms, and the misconception that colon cancer is an unlikely diagnosis.

Screening delays are apparent as most of the increase in colorectal cancer has been for late-stage cancers compared to localized or early-stage cancers. Younger adults with colorectal cancer are 58% more likely to be diagnosed with a later stage of the disease when it’s harder to treat [3]. For people under age 50, the average time to diagnosis is significantly longer than for people over 50, with one study reporting a difference of up to 6 months [4]. When detected early, patients have a 90% survival rate with a low risk of recurrence. In contrast, late-stage colorectal cancer requires more invasive and complex treatment, with less than a 15% survival rate [5]

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How at-home testing can engage younger populations in colorectal cancer screening

Early detection is the best tool to deal with the trend of colon cancer affecting young patients. In light of the recent trends of increasing colon cancer cases in younger people, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently changed screening guidelines for colon cancer from age 50 to 45 [6]. Initiating screening at a younger age can reduce people’s risk of colorectal cancer and the population’s overall incidence of cancer.

LetsGetChecked’s at-home Colon Cancer Screening Test is an easy and convenient way to engage younger populations in screenings. Our tests meet patients where they are, empowering them to engage in proactive healthcare on their own terms. We can help your members take the first step towards catching the disease early when it is easier to treat and hasn’t yet spread.

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