New study says colon cancer has increased among Gen X, millennials

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A new study suggests colon and rectal cancers have increased in millennials and Generation X adults over the past four decades. While the exact cause hasn't been determined; obesity, inactivity and poor diets are suspected triggers.

Previous studies agree with the increase in young adults, but the new one provided more detailed information from a new age-group from nearly 500,000 different cases in 1974-2013. Rectal cancer rates rose 3.2 percent a year among people in their 30’s starting in 1983.

Colon Cancer is no longer considered the “Old man’s disease." 

"Colon is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women,” said Dr. Whit Knapple, a gastroenterologist in North Little Rock.

Most people assume only men get this form of cancer, particularly older men, but that’s no longer the case.

"Now recent information suggests that those born in 1990 have an increased risk of colon cancer compared to those born in 1950,” the doctor said.

Knapple said to look for changes in bowel habits, blood in your stool, or a significant amount of abdominal pain.

Frankie Melendez was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer and he lost 24 pounds in 30 days. He started experiencing symptoms and wrote them off to being tired and over worked. His wife encouraged him to go see a specialist.

“24 hour fevers," Melendez said, recalling his symptoms. "I had high fevers at 103 to 104 temperatures.”

Dr. Knapple said the vast majority of those who are diagnosed are over age 50. However, Melendez proves that isn’t always the case. Melendez was only 45-years-old when he was diagnosed.

Doctors are still working to determine why millennials and Gen-Xers are seeing an increase.

“The new cancer diagnosis for 2017 nationwide will be about 140,000 people diagnosed with colon cancer,” Knapple said. 

Knapple added there will also be about 50,000 deaths across the country as well.

Friday, March 3, is Wear Blue Day for colon cancer awareness. There will be a bridge lighting in North Little Rock near the submarine museum from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Get Your Rear in Gear, a 5k walk and run, will be held May 13 at the Burns Park soccer complex. Registration is now open. For more info visit: http://coloncancercoalition.org/

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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