Director & Senior Consultant surgeon – Hepatobiliary Pancreatic, GI oncology.

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Why is colorectal cancer incidence rising in the young

Colorectal cancer is one of the commonest cancers worldwide and the third most common cancer globally and the eighth most common cancer in India.

What is alarming in the last decade is the regularity with which it affects young persons.

In the last two years, every fifth of colorectal cancer in my clinic is less than 50 years of age.

It is also pertinent to note that the younger the patient, the more aggressive the disease.

Why is the incidence of the young increasing?

About 15 percent of young colorectal cancer is due to familial genetic conditions like Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome. These run in families and if there is a patient with such a condition all siblings, and children have to be screened.

However, the reason for a higher number of colorectal cancers among the young is the change in lifestyle and diet.

Processed foods, processed meats junk food, and lesser fiber in the diet are all major causative factors in the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer. There is clearly a higher incidence in the urban population as compared to the rural population. Western countries have a much higher incidence as compared to India but this is now changing with the increasing adoption of a western lifestyle in urban India. Another major contributing factor is obesity due to lifestyle which contributes to the higher incidence of colorectal cancer. Studies have shown that almost 40% of young colorectal cancers are overweight or obese.

Chemical toxins due to pollution of air, water, and food contamination by pesticides are also known to increase colorectal cancers.

Ignorance about the fact that young patients can also have cancer even among the medical community is one of the causes of late detection and hence advanced disease among the young.

Anyone with bleeding in the stool should visit a doctor. General Practitioners and physicians must remember to get a colonoscopy done if the cause is not piles or fissures.

This will help detect these conditions early and enable prompt treatment.

We must remember that all early colorectal cancers with the correct treatment by qualified oncologists have excellent outcomes and long survivals.

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