Colon cancer is on the rise in patients younger than 50

40 is the new 50

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer.  The good news is that colorectal cancer incidence is declining in people over the age of 50, mainly because of improved screening rates and the removal of precancerous colon polyps.  However, colorectal cancer is steadily increasing in people younger than 50 years old. Approximately 10-15% of all patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer are below the age of 50.

The major reason for this recent increase in patients under 50 years old is that they are not being adequately screened. Colon cancer does not develop overnight. Rather, it is a progression from a small polyp, to a large polyp, to localized cancer, to metastatic cancer. This progression is generally thought to take 5-10 years, however shorter progression times are possible with certain genetic mutations. Colonoscopy is the best method to remove colon and rectal polyps and prevent colorectal cancer from developing. Since patients with colon polyps are asymptomatic, being proactive and getting screened is the best way to reduce your lifetime chances (1 in 20 in the US) of developing this potentially fatal cancer.

US guidelines recommend that most patients begin colon cancer screening at age 50, but many leading epidemiologists and gastroenterologists argue that this guideline is long overdue for a change. Many believe the recommended starting age should be 40. It is important to remember that colonoscopy is a simple, safe, and effective procedure that could save your life.

If you have any questions or are concerned that you may need to have a colonoscopy, please do not hesitate to call us at 310.657.4444 or email us at