KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Rates Of Colon, Rectal Cancer In Young People Spiking Dramatically

Researchers suggest that sedentary lifestyles and poor diets may be contributing to the rise in cases.

The New York Times: Colon And Rectal Cancers Rising In Young People
Cancers of the colon and rectum have been declining in older adults in recent decades and have always been considered rare in young people. But scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colorectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, an ominous trend. The vast majority of colorectal cancers are still found in older people, with nearly 90 percent of all cases diagnosed in people over 50. But a new study from the American Cancer Society that analyzed cancer incidence by birth year found that colorectal cancer rates, which had dropped steadily for people born between 1890 and 1950, have been increasing for every generation born since 1950. Experts aren’t sure why. (Rabin, 2/28)

USA Today/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Colon And Rectal Cancers Surge Among Young Adults
While scientists have not pinpointed an exact cause, prime suspects include obesity, inactivity and poor diets, said researchers from the American Cancer Society, reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “Colorectal cancer had been thought a success story,” because overall rates have fallen as screening has increased among older adults, said lead researcher Rebecca Siegel. “But it appears that under the surface, the underlying risk for colorectal cancer is rising, and it is rising pretty quickly among young adults.” (Painter, 2/28)

The Washington Post: Colorectal Cancer Rates Rising Sharply Among Gen X And Millennials
The study, which included scientists at the NCI, didn't determine the reason for the shift. But Siegel suggested one explanation might be a complex interaction involving the same factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic — changes in diet, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight and low fiber consumption. Experts said the cancers are not related to the human papilloma virus. HPV is associated with squamous cell cancers, which are common in HPV-related anal cancer, but not in colorectal cancers. (McGinley, 2/28)

Los Angeles Times: Colorectal Cancer Rates Are Rising Among Younger Americans Even As They'Re Falling For Others
“It’s still a disease of older folks,” said Dr. George J. Chang, chief of colon and rectal surgery at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. ... But with a growing number of younger patients affected, physicians and patients need to be more open to the possibility that symptoms such as blood in the stool and changed bowel habits could be signs of cancer, he said. (Healy, 2/28)

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