Statistics show that colorectal cancer rates have dropped by 23 percent over the last two decades. But despite this promising trend, colorectal cancer remains the third most common cancer in American men and women today. According to the American Cancer Society’s estimates, 95,520 new cases of colon cancer and 39,910 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year alone.
Medical information and technology are always changing, and as a result, we’ve seen significant improvements in colorectal cancer screenings, treatments and survival rates over the past several years. The following are some of the most recent trends in colorectal cancer incidence, screening and prevention:
Colorectal cancer rates are declining older adults but increasing in younger adults
Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates have dropped significantly in adults over the age of 50, but researchers have noticed a sharp increase in young and middle-aged adults. According to recent findings, people born in 1990 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer and four times as likely to be diagnosed with rectal cancer as adults born in the 1950s. Researchers remain unsure as to why young adults are at increased risk, but poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol use, and sedentary lifestyle are possible explanations.
Research links smoking to synchronous colorectal cancers
A prospective study linked cigarette smoking with an increased risk for synchronous colorectal cancers. The study also found that smoking cessation may stop and even reverse these effects. “…these findings also highlight the importance of smoking cessation and abstinence as a component of CRC prevention strategies,” researchers said.
Sigmoidoscopy provides extended protection against colorectal cancer
The U.K. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy Screening Trial found that one sigmoidoscopy exam reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by one-third and provided 17 years of protection against colorectal cancer diagnosis and mortality. However, current screening guidelines by the American Cancer Society recommend:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Colonoscopy every 10 years
- Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years
- CT colonography every 5 years
Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) advocacy addresses racial disparities in colorectal cancer
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that promoting FIT testing improved screening rates in underserved Haitian and Hispanic populations. Late-stage diagnosis and poor survival outcomes in these communities are typically due to lack of access to preventive screening. Researchers noted an 85 percent participation rate when screening tests were made available to study participants, most of whom were uninsured and lived below the poverty line.
Aspirin may reduce colorectal cancer risk
Findings presented at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium suggest that a long-term aspirin regimen decreases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, this treatment also increases the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding. Physicians should weigh the potential risks and benefits of this particular treatment before prescribing an aspirin regimen (Source: Healio).