Colorectal cancer rates rising among the young globally and even in Thailand

PHOTO: Freepik

In recent years, a concerning trend has emerged in the realm of colorectal cancer, one that defies traditional age-related expectations. Historically considered a disease primarily affecting older individuals, colorectal cancer is increasingly making its presence known among younger age groups globally, including countries like Thailand. This shift in demographics has ignited discussions and investigations into the underlying causes, implications, and necessary strategies to address this evolving health challenge.

The evolution of colorectal cancer trends

Colorectal cancer rates have been steadily climbing among younger demographics for several decades, marking a departure from earlier perceptions of the disease. Studies, such as the one led by Dr Islam Mohamed from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, have delved into this phenomenon, leveraging data from reputable sources like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to analyse trends across different age brackets.

Traditionally, routine colorectal cancer screening commences at age 45, targeting individuals considered at higher risk due to age-related factors. However, recent research has focused on individuals aged 10 to 44, revealing a disturbing surge in colorectal cancer diagnoses across these younger cohorts. Notably, teenagers and young adults have experienced significant spikes in diagnosed cases, with percentages that underscore the gravity of the issue.

For instance, cases among 15- to 19-year-olds surged by over 300%, while those in the 10 to 14 age group witnessed an astonishing 500% rise. Even individuals aged 20 to 24 experienced a notable uptick of 185% in diagnosed cases. These statistics, while alarming, serve as crucial indicators of a shifting landscape in colorectal cancer epidemiology.

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This study’s findings which are yet to be published will be presented in the coming international symposium to be held in Washington DC for all gastroenterologists and oncologists.

Colorectal cancer rates rising among the young globally and even in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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Exploring the complexities of rising rates

Understanding the factors driving this surge in colorectal cancer among the young requires a multifaceted approach. While genetic predispositions cannot be discounted entirely, experts emphasise the significant role played by environmental and lifestyle factors. Modern dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles, exposure to environmental pollutants, and changes in food processing methods are among the potential contributors under scrutiny.

Moreover, the concept of the birth cohort effect sheds light on a nuanced aspect of this trend. Individuals born in more recent decades may carry a persistently higher risk of colorectal cancer throughout their lives compared to earlier generations. This phenomenon underscores the intricate interplay between genetic susceptibilities and environmental influences, necessitating comprehensive research efforts to unravel its complexities.

Navigating solutions in a changing landscape

As colorectal cancer rates continue to rise among younger demographics, healthcare authorities face critical decisions regarding screening protocols, public awareness campaigns, and targeted interventions. The American Cancer Society’s decision to lower the routine screening age from 50 to 45 represents a proactive step toward early detection and intervention. However, challenges remain in ensuring widespread adherence to screening recommendations, particularly among those deemed low-risk based on age criteria alone.

Furthermore, empowering individuals with symptom awareness and promoting proactive healthcare-seeking behaviours are paramount in mitigating the impact of colorectal cancer among younger populations. Changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, and signs of anaemia are red flags that necessitate prompt medical evaluation, especially in young individuals where the disease may not be immediately suspected.

Education and outreach efforts play a pivotal role in dispelling misconceptions about age-related disease risks and encouraging proactive health management across all age groups. By fostering a culture of preventive care and early intervention, healthcare systems can better address the evolving landscape of colorectal cancer and improve outcomes for individuals across the age spectrum.

Colorectal cancer rates rising among the young globally and even in Thailand | News by Thaiger
Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

A recent study in Thailand showed that colorectal cancer rates expected are to rise sharply in the next decade, emphasizing the importance of early screenings

A study conducted in 2023 by local Thai researchers showed that colorectal cancer rates and deaths from colorectal cancer are expected to rise sharply in the next decade.

Colorectal cancer progression and deaths in Thailand can be prevented by young adults having regular health screenings conducted for colorectal cancer at regular intervals of once every two to three years or when suspicions arise due to changes in bowel habits or any worrisome signs. Faecal immunochemical tests and colonoscopies would play key roles in such health screenings.

Individuals need not wait for specialists or oncologists to recommend them to do such screenings for colorectal cancer or colonoscopies as they can request such procedures from their family doctors or hospitals.

Moving towards a holistic approach

In conclusion, the rising incidence of colorectal cancer among younger populations signals a pressing health challenge that demands collaborative efforts from healthcare providers, policymakers, researchers, and the public. By delving deeper into the underlying factors, enhancing screening initiatives, and promoting proactive healthcare behaviours, strides can be made toward mitigating the impact of this concerning trend.

Education, awareness, and access to quality healthcare services are key pillars in addressing colorectal cancer across all age groups. By recognizing the evolving nature of this disease and implementing evidence-based strategies, we can navigate the complexities of colorectal cancer epidemiology and work towards a future where age is not a barrier to early detection and effective management.

Colorectal cancer rates rising among the young globally and even in Thailand | News by Thaiger
Photo taken from the John Hopkins Medicine website

Take action now and schedule a colonoscopy through MyMediTravel to begin. The best cure is prevention and there is no better way to prevent it than to find out the symptoms you might have before they turn into a real medical issue.

HealthThailand News

Dr. Nikhil Prasad

Dr. Nikhil Prasad is an independent researcher, medical, pharma and health PR consultant, herbalists and phytochemical specialists and a medical and health writer for numerous international publications and sites including his own sites such as Thailand Medical News. He is based either at Sydney, New York, Shanghai, Mumbai or Bangkok.

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