BALTIMORE (WJZ) — While colorectal cancer diagnoses are becoming less frequent in the United States overall, there has been an alarming increase in diagnoses among young adults, according to recent data from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

And compared with adults born around 1950, those born around 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer at the same age, new statistics show.

“Age-specific CRC risk has escalated back to the level of those born circa 1890,” the study says, “underscoring the need for increased awareness among clinicians and the general public, as well as etiologic research to elucidate causes for the trend.”

Currently, the American Cancer Society recommends men and women with an average risk of developing colorectal cancer — meaning those without a family history of the disease — begin screenings at age 50.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, says the increased risk of colorectal cancer could be due to the complex relationship between colorectal cancer and obesity, an unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity.

The ACS says the most common signs and symptoms of colerectal cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Dark stools, or blood in the stool
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss

The ACS also says you can lower your colorectal cancer risk by:

  • Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats)
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Watching your weight
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Limiting alcohol (ACS recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women)

Brawley says the new data is being examined by the society’s independent guidelines development group to review whether a change in screening recommendations is warranted.

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