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Cape Cod doctors highlight rise of colon cancer in young people

Dark blue ribbons are part of raising awareness for colon cancer awareness month.
Courtesy of Cape Cod Healthcare
Dark blue ribbons are part of raising awareness for colon cancer awareness month.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and local doctors are highlighting the rise in colon cancer cases among younger people.

"It’s estimated people born in 1990 compared to those born in 1950 have a two-to-four times increased risk of developing colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Aaron Dickstein, a gastroenterologist with Cape Cod Healthcare.

He said experts aren’t entirely sure why they’re seeing this increase.

“The current studies suggest the obesity epidemic is part of it. Our sedentary lifestyle, perhaps alcohol intake and the intake of red meat or processed meat may be contributing to this.”

Dickstein said it’s recommended an average risk person get a first screening at age 45, which is younger than the previous guidance of 50. The age for first screening could be even younger for someone with a family history of colon cancer.

Dickstein said the incidence of the disease has been rising over the last 20 years.

It’s now the leading cause of cancer death for men under the age of 50, and the second for women in the same age group.

Dickstein said that home test kits aren’t exactly a substitute for preventative screenings like a colonoscopy.

“Really those are for people who are thinking about cancer detection, where we like to think about the colonoscopy as more preventative, and sort of a different aim in that way.”

Dickstein said that studies show eating more fruits and vegetables, and garlic, can help your lower risk. He said for medications, using baby aspirin may also lower risks.

Learn more about preventative screenings at Cape Cod Healthcare.

Brian Engles is an author, a Cape Cod local, and a producer for Morning Edition.