Early onset of cancer: more adults are developing colon cancer at a younger age

Posted in , , , by Miss Kornelija Dedelaite

Contrary to popular belief, colorectal cancer now affects people younger than 55 in one out of every five instances, up from one in ten in 1995, according to a recent report from the American Cancer Society (Siegel et. al., 2023).

The cause of this tendency is unclear, but a recent publication in Science offers a number of theories, including environmental and genetic variables. Poor screening rates and misdiagnosis in patients who don’t have cancer suspicions are probable contributing factors as well (Giannakis & Ng, 2023).

There are many charities and research facilities that monitor the cancer statistics to understand the disease better. They help us focus our efforts in order to maintain the gains we’ve made in helping more patients survive cancer.

Yet, development isn’t necessarily linear. Statistics can occasionally show unanticipated difficulties, such as the increased incidence of cancer among young adults.

Incidence rates of cancer among people aged 25 to 49 in the UK increased by 22% from the early 1990s to 2018 (Cancer Research UK, 2021). More than twice as much of a percentage change as any other age group, including the over-75s’ 9% gain.

Despite how startling those figures are, we must be aware that these so-called “early-onset” malignancies are still rather rare. Those over the age of 50 are affected by cancer in about 90% of cases. Even though the over-75s make up a relatively tiny portion of the population, 50% of them are affected.

Hence, from a low starting position, the number of cases among younger individuals has only slightly increased. Yet, the trend is crucial. According to the evidence, cancer may be occurring in more persons under 50 than ever before.

Overall, colon cancer is the second most common cancer-related cause of death in the United States and the UK, with most diagnoses and fatalities occurring in patients over the age of 50. The essential need to increase awareness among young people is highlighted by these worrying new statistics.

Early onset of colon cancer in men and women

Although colorectal cancer is frequently thought to only affect elderly people, the prevalence of the disease in young adults has been rising recently. The incidence rate of young-onset colorectal cancer grew by roughly 2% annually between 2016 and 2020, according to the most recent data. More astonishingly, the overall survival percentage for CRC patients under 50 (68%) is the same as that for those between 50 and 64 (69%) (Siegel et. al., 2023).

The surge in young-onset CRC has a number of potential causes. Some blame it on bad diets, inactive lives, and rising obesity rates. There is no question that a patient has a better chance of surviving CRC the sooner it is detected. Young people should be educated about their family’s medical history and colorectal cancer signs. If they have symptoms, they should press medical professionals for information and, if required, seek second views.

Early onset of colon cancer: men vs women

The findings show that 2,100 men between the ages of 20 and 49 passed away from CRC in 2020. This makes CRC the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities in young men under 50 and accounts for 17% of all cancer-related deaths in males of this age group.

Comparatively, 1,200 women between the ages of 20 and 49 lost their lives to CRC in 2020, making up an average of 9% of all cancer-related fatalities in this age group. The fact that males are approximately twice as likely than women to die from colorectal cancer in the age range of 20 to 49 is therefore shocking.

Symptoms of colon cancer

There are a few things you should take note of as they could indicate that you may have colon cancer. The list below is just some of the symptoms you may experience (NHS, 2023):

  • changes in your poo, such as having softer poo, diarrhoea or constipation that is not usual for you
  • needing to poo more or less often than usual for you
  • blood in your poo, which may look red or black
  • bleeding from your bottom
  • often feeling like you need to poo, even if you’ve just been to the toilet
  • tummy pain
  • bloating
  • losing weight without trying
  • feeling very tired for no reason

However, if you present any of the symptoms mentioned for 3 or more weeks, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.

Risk factors associated with colon cancer

Age is usually the number one risk, however in light of the new research other risk factors may be the reason for the increase in incidence rates among those who are younger:

Unfortunately, while the risk can be elevated due to those factors, in the US 75% of all colon cancers develop among those without risk factors other than the country of birth and age (50+) (Winawer et al., 1997).

Preventing colon cancer

Whilst colon cancer cannot be eradicated, it can be greatly prevented.

When it comes to health, Echelon Health holds that there is no “one size fits all” strategy, and we appreciate the need of early detection.

We are committed to offering the most thorough health examination imaginable using our extensive medical experience and the greatest imaging equipment accessible in the UK. This relates to the identification of cancer, and the Core Cancer package’s goal is to find malignancies in their earliest stages. In addition to skin cancer, breast/prostate cancer, and other diseases, it can aid in the detection of colon cancer. The scans that were part of our Core Cancer examination are listed below:

  • Blood tests
  • CT abdomen
  • CT pelvis
  • CT virtual colonoscopy
  • MRI prostate
  • Ultrasound thyroid
  • Ultrasound testes/ovaries
  • Digital mammogram

Our Platinum Assessment is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It can detect up to 92% and up to 95% of the causes of premature death among men and women respectively using the most advanced imaging technologies.

This package offers a full health screening; the following tests and scans are included in the platinum package:

  • Blood Tests
  • ECG
  • CT Aorta
  • CT Heart
  • CT Coronary Angiogram
  • CT Chest
  • CT Pelvis
  • CT Virtual Colonoscopy
  • CT Bone Density
  • EOS
  • CT Upright Skeleton
  • MRI Brain
  • MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Prostate
  • Ultrasound Thyroid
  • Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
  • Digital Mammogram
  • Full Body Mole Screen

Preventive health screenings are a key area of focus for Echelon Health since they can help people understand their health better and take steps to improve it. When your mind is completely at ease, it is much simpler to maintain your health and take care of yourself.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any inquiries about the other evaluations we provide or if you’d like to make a reservation. We are always willing to assist with your inquiries and send you more details about Echelon Health and what we can offer.





Siegel, R. L., Miller, K. D., Wagle, N. S., & Jemal, A. (2023). Cancer statistics, 2023. CA: a cancer journal for clinicians73(1), 17-48.

Giannakis, M., & Ng, K. (2023). A common cancer at an uncommon age. Science379(6637), 1088-1090.

Cancer Research UK, (2021). Cancer incidence by age. Available at: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/incidence/age#heading-Three (accessed 04/04/2023).

NHS, (2023). Symptoms of bowel cancer. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/bowel-cancer/symptoms/ (accessed 04/04/2023).

Johns, L. E., & Houlston, R. S. (2001). A systematic review and meta-analysis of familial colorectal cancer risk. The American journal of gastroenterology96(10), 2992-3003.

Mork, M. E., You, Y. N., Ying, J., Bannon, S. A., Lynch, P. M., Rodriguez-Bigas, M. A., & Vilar, E. (2015). High prevalence of hereditary cancer syndromes in adolescents and young adults with colorectal cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology33(31), 3544.

Fedirko, V., Tramacere, I., Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Scotti, L., Islami, F., Negri, E., Straif, K., Romieu, I., La Vecchia, C. and Boffetta, P., (2011). Alcohol drinking and colorectal cancer risk: an overall and dose–response meta-analysis of published studies. Annals of oncology22(9), pp.1958-1972.

Liang, P. S., Chen, T. Y., & Giovannucci, E. (2009). Cigarette smoking and colorectal cancer incidence and mortality: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. International journal of cancer124(10), 2406-2415.

Winawer, S.J., Fletcher, R.H., Miller, L., Godlee, F., Stolar, M.H., Mulrow, C.D., Woolf, S.H., Glick, S.N., Ganiats, T.G., Bond, J.H. and Rosen, L., (1997). Colorectal cancer screening: clinical guidelines and rationale. Gastroenterology112(2), pp.594-642.