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Are you in your mid 40s? When was the last time you signed yourself up for a complete health check-up? If the respective answers are "Yes!" and "Not anytime sooner", then it's high time you pay attention.
According to the newly updated guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS), men should get their first colon and rectal cancer screenings at 45 instead of 50. And this is due to an unexplained, yet steady rise in the number of colon and rectal cancer patients in comparatively younger people.
The ones within a higher risk periphery are African Americans, Alaska Natives, and those with a family or personal history of colon or rectal polyps. Note that such risk factors could demand an earlier screening as well.
Since the revised guidelines by ACS pertaining to age limit cannot explain the rising trend by any logical norm, it's just aimed at hoping more people will turn up for screening process earlier in life.
An official from ACS pointed out that people born in the '80s and '90s are currently facing double to four times the risk for developing colorectal cancer compared to people born decades earlier like the '40s and '50s.
Development of colorectal cancer in people in their teens has also been observed-something that used to be extraordinarily rare in the past.
What Could Be The Reason Behind The Rise?
More and more research on the topic would shed further light on why there has been this exponential rise in colorectal cancer among young adults. Only time can tell that.
But some studies prominently highlight some factors that have changed over the past few decades-such as exposures and lifestyle-could be potential reasons behind it. Obesity is largely associated with an increased incidence of many cancers, including colorectal cancer.
And standing at this point in time obesity epidemic indeed remains an important and growing problem globally. So that may be one associated factor which cannot really be overlooked.
On the other hand, factors such as sedentary lifestyles, environmental exposures, and diets high in processed foods could be possible reasons, although not identified practically.
Maybe a report released last week by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research can justify this factor. They suggest that being physically active and eating whole grains and foods high in fibre, coupled with other healthy habits, can fairly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
Contrarily, consumption of red meat and alcohol can escalate your chance of having colorectal cancer.
What Usually Happens At The Screening?
Colorectal cancer screening can mean multiple things. For instance, a colonoscopy is where a small camera is inserted and passed through the entire colon. Or, DNA testing on stool is conducted to check for cancerous cells. They can even include CT scans and blood tests.
Stool-based tests for colorectal cancer include:
1. Highly sensitive fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
2. Highly sensitive guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) every year
3. Multi-targeted stool DNA test (MT-sDNA) every 3 years
Visual or structural screenings of the colon and rectum can be done by:
1. Colonoscopy every 10 years
2. CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
3. Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years
Then again, testing can be expensive, especially if it's not covered by insurance. What's relieving is the fact that there are many screening options; you may find certain screening options which are much more affordable than others.
For those who are confused with the different kind of tests, let us tell you that all these tests are more or less equal in their values. And it's quite natural that if a choice is offered between colonoscopy and a less-invasive test, more people would show up to be screened. That's anyhow the ultimate goal of ACS and other cancer research organizations.
Let's Take It As An Opportunity
People generally do not develop colon cancer or rectal cancer overnight. Rather, it happens over years following a step by step progression from having zero abnormalities to then having polyps and then developing cancer.
In that regard, moving screening ages towards the younger bracket indeed gives us a real opportunity to stop people from ever developing cancer. Say, someone-not having cancer but just a polyp-can be put under colonoscopy and that polyp can be removed. Thus, he doesn't even stand the chance of developing cancer.
It's not about simple diagnosis. It's more about complete prevention.