• Brian Jerby MD

Too Young to be Concerned About Colon & Rectal Cancer?

Updated: Mar 22, 2019

The incidence of colon and rectal cancer is rising in younger people. Is it time to take notice?

For people born in 1990 the risk of rectal cancer has quadrupled since 1950...


As you probably know, March is colorectal cancer awareness month. I applaud this effort to boost awareness that colorectal cancer (hereafter CRC) is a real risk for all adults—not just for those over 50 years old. Therefore I am dedicating my energy this month to getting the word out about what you can do to help prevent the development of this unfortunately common disease. You probably already know that colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer-related death. Most people think of CRC as a disease of "older" people. However, recent studies are showing that the incidence of CRC is rising for younger people. In 2018, the American Cancer Society published statistics showing that for people born in 1990 (these folks would have been 28 years old at the time of publication) the risk of colon cancer has doubled and, even worse, the risk of rectal cancer has quadrupled since 1950. The best awareness that anyone can have is the knowledge of what to do to prevent the development of colon cancer. Most of the emphasis in medical practice has been focused on screening for early detection and possible prevention through the removal of precancerous polyps. That’s all well and good, and I would recommend anyone who is over 45 years of age to get screened. And don’t try to use the excuse that you don’t have a family history of colon or rectal cancer because more than 80% of people diagnosed with the disease have no family history. Just do it, OK? Early detection may save your life.


However, wouldn’t it be a lot better to focus the majority of our efforts at prevention of the development of CRC in the first place? There is an increasing body of literature that shows that it's an adverse environment in the colon over a long period of time that leads to the development of CRC. So that's what I'll set out to do in the next few articles. My aim is to equip you with the knowledge and tools that you'll need to begin to improve your colon ecology--not only to help prevent colon cancer, but also to improve your health overall. We'll begin by asking (and hopefully answering) this question: Can probiotics help prevent colon and rectal cancer? Stay tuned and see...

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