From Kurt P. Leuenberger, MD, medical oncologist and hematologist at OHC

March 14, 2022

One year ago, I wrote a blog for OHC on the rising increase of colon cancer in young adults ( Unfortunately, recent research underscores this reality and reinforces my strong endorsement of colon cancer screening.

In January, researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine published research in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention showing that between the years 2000 and 2016, individuals aged 20-39 years had the largest increase in advanced stage colorectal adenocarcinoma. Colorectal adenocarcinoma is a subtype of colon cancer that accounts for most colon cancers. In addition, when evaluating the study’s subgroups, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic participants had the highest increase.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published data in the January 4th issue of Gastroenterology showing an increase in early-onset colon cancer and precancerous polyps in patients under the age of 50. A colon polyp is a growth on the lining of the large intestine that can develop into cancer. They collected data between January 2014 and February 2021 from high-quality colonoscopies throughout the country of approximately 131,000 patients aged 40-49.

We still do not understand all the nuances as to why we are diagnosing more colon cancer in younger adults. Besides those cases linked to genetics, we do know colon cancer has been linked to obesity, diet, and environmental factors. Fortunately, colon cancer cases among older adults have been decreasing because of screening advances and the removal of suspicious growths before they develop into cancer.

We need to overcome the misconception that colon cancer is an unlikely diagnosis for young adults. In response to the increase of colon cancer in younger Americans, the American Cancer Society changed its screening guidelines and recommends that all individuals begin screening at age 45. In fact, about 60 percent of colon cancer deaths in the U.S. could be avoided with screening.

In addition, every adult should be aware of the following colon cancer symptoms and discuss them with their healthcare provider:

  • Change in appetite
  • Unusual stools
  • Constipation
  • Sudden change in bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain or fullness
  • Unexplained weakness

This Colon Cancer Awareness Month, and throughout the calendar year, my OHC colleagues and I urge you to be aware of colon cancer screening guidelines. Colon cancer is a highly preventable cancer. For an up-to-date list of cancer screening recommendations, follow this link:

For more information on the advanced therapies OHC’s cancer experts are using to treat colon cancer or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

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