Colon cancer deaths on the rise for younger, white Americans

This graphs shows a small uptick in colorectal cancer death rates among white people. While it may look modest experts warn the sharp rise is statistically huge- and completely baffling

Researchers studied all races and found deaths in white people under age 55 are on the rise. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers said the increase colorectal cancer deaths in people in their 50s was particularly unexpected since screening - which can both prevent colon cancer and detect it early - has been recommended starting at age 50 for decades.

Japan's National Cancer Center for the first time on August 9 released data showing the relative five-year survival rate of cancer patients at 188 hospitals around Japan - roughly half the number of institutions serving as bases for cancer treatment. Although African-Americans are still more likely to die from colon cancer than whites, the rate among African-Americans has declined.

Another interesting find was that the growing trend is being driven by colorectal cancer deaths in white men and women.

According to a recent study by the American Cancer Society, there was an overwhelming increase in colon cancer from 1970 to 2014, and it'affecting those who are young and white, Yahoo reports. After 2004, death rates began to increase slightly each year, reaching 4.3 per 100,000 in 2014.

While mortality remained stable in white individuals ages 20 to 29 from 1988-2014, it increased from 1995-2014 by 1.6 percent per year in those ages 30 to 39 years, and from 2005-2014 by 1.9 percent per year for those ages 40 to 49 years and by 0.9 percent per year for those ages 50 to 54 years.

In white individuals, death rates increased from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 4.1 in 2014. Among black individuals, mortality declined throughout the study period at a rate of 0.4 percent to 1.1 percent annually (from 8.1 in 1970 to 6.1 in 2014).

According to the scientists, " this racial disparity does not coincide with the trends of major risks, such as obesity, which increases in all groups of the american population", they say.

So what's going on?

"One would have to think that lifestyle may play a role", Berlin said, positing that a more sedentary lifestyle and obesity increase risk of cancer."

"Delayed initiation of screening is likely behind these lower rates, as well as other barriers like insurance coverage, which is lower in ages 50 to 54 years than older adults because of the universal coverage offered by Medicare beginning at 65 years", Siegel said.

While research is ongoing to look into what may be causing this, experts believe the answer may lie at least partly in the microbiome - the bacteria that normally thrive in the body.

The important thing for now is to catch the cancer early on.

Siegel told The American Cancer Society that "trends in young people are a bellwether for the future disease burden".

Know the symptoms. Persistent bleeding from the rectum or in the stool, cramping and change in bowel habits are the most common symptoms associated with colorectal cancer.

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