Thanks in part to earlier diagnosis and better treatments, the risk of dying from colon cancer has decreased among the general population overall. But a research letter in JAMA reinforces a disturbing new trend: The death rates of people from colon cancer who are 20 to 54 increased slightly between 2004 to 2014, from 3.9 deaths per 100,000 people, to 4.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
Rebecca L. Siegel, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society and the lead author of the current study, tells the New York Times: “It’s a small increase, and it is a trend that emerged only in the past decade, but I don’t think it’s a blip. The burden of disease is shifting to younger people.”
The findings disturb Thomas Weber, MD, who was not involved in the study but is a member of the steering committee of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. He tells the Times: “This is not merely a phenomenon of picking up more small cancers. There is something else going on that’s truly important.”
Nobody seems to know what the underlying causes might be.