SARASOTA – Alarming news from the American Cancer Society. A study finds rates of colon and rectal cancer are rising in people in their 40’s, 30’s, and even 20’s!

Colon cancer is something we don’t have to worry about until we’re 50 right? Wrong.

A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute finds people born in the 1990’s have double the risk of colon cancer and 4 times the risk of rectal cancer than those born around 1950. What the study doesn’t find is why.

“People under the age of 50 don’t really have screening guidelines cause in the past we’ve considered them low risk unless there’s a family history,” says Kenneth Meredith, surgical oncologist and Medical Director of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

He says the increase is likely caused by our sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. “As Americans now our diet is a high fat diet, it’s processed food, high sugar diet,” says Meredith. This, along with the fact that many people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s put off the doctor.

“Someone that’s 30 and you may have one episode of rectal bleeding, that may get you off and under the rug and say oh that could be hemorrhoids and we’ll keep an eye on it, you may never get a colonoscopy,” says Meredith.

The good news is, despite colon cancer rates being on the rise, mortality rates are not changing. “Colon and rectal cancer, even if it spreads to the liver, spreads to the lung it can still be treated,” says Meredith.

Meredith says these types of cancers can usually be cured, thanks to improvements in surgery and chemotherapy.

The best way to prevent colon and rectal cancer is to know the symptoms. “You can have abdominal pain; you can have abdominal extension, change in your bowel habits, change in the caliber of your stool,” says Meredith. “If you’re having any of those things, those should not be ignored, you should be checked out by your primary care doctor.”

Another study released this week from the British Medical Journal finds obesity has an increased risk for 11 different cancers, including colon cancer.