Under 50 colon cancer rates are increasing while over 50 are decreasing, and we don’t know why.

chartThere is a fantastic story from our local public radio station (KNKX.org) about a confounding trend in the rates of colon cancer for young people vs. those over 50. As the story explains: “Cancer incidence is creeping up by 1 or 2 cases per 100,000 people under 50. By way of comparison, the disease rate among older Americans has plummeted by more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.”

According to the story, which analyzes a very recent study out of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the epidemiologists looking at the issue don’t have a satisfactory answer for why the rate is dropping in the over 50 but increasing in the under 50.

The real fear is that the failure to see the rate decrease in those currently under 50 may mean we see significantly increased rates of cancer in that age group once they reach the age of 50.  As the story puts it: “the under-50s will eventually grow older. What will happen to their risk then?”

The recommendation is the thing none of us want to do: get screened via colonoscopy once we reach 50 (the recommended age).

-Peter Mullenix