• Printer Friendly Version
  • Decrease Text Size
  • Increase Text Size
  • PDF

Thursday, February 15, 2024

While U.S. Cancer Deaths Are Dropping, Diagnoses Among Young People Are on the Rise

Posted By: Advancing Care

Medically reviewed by Carrie Brooke Wasserman, MD.

The latest Cancer Facts and Figures from the American Cancer Society reveals a 33 percent decline in cancer deaths since 1991, resulting in 4.1 million fewer deaths. Experts attribute this positive trend to reduced smoking rates, more advanced treatments and targeted therapies.

However, while overall cancer death rates continue to decline, rates for six of the most common cancers in young adults under 50 are increasing — particularly rates of colon and breast cancer.

Cancer deaths are dropping but diagnoses among young people are on the rise

Colon cancer is now the leading cause of death among men under 50 and the second leading cause in women of the same age group. Breast and colon cancers have surpassed lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death for those under 50.

While the reasons behind the rise in cancer rates among younger adults remain unclear, potential causes may include rising obesity rates, exposure to chemicals in foods and in the air and other currently unidentified environmental factors.

The importance of early diagnosis

Early detection and diagnosis are crucial for effective cancer treatment.

Recently, health officials lowered the recommended screening age for individuals with average risk from 50 to 45 for colon cancer and from 50 to 40 for breast cancer.

Delayed medical attention contributes to the higher mortality rates among younger individuals with colon cancer, often diagnosed at advanced stages with a lower survival rate. Experts advise getting a colonoscopy when recommended or earlier if you have symptoms like blood in stool, unintended weight loss or prolonged changes in bowel habits.

For breast cancer detection, experts recommend mammograms or additional screenings at the recommended age or earlier if you have a family history or are at increased risk.

Racial disparities still affect the timely diagnosis of cancer in people of color, particularly in cases of uterine cancer. Be aware of your risks and become informed about your screening needs. For information about our WMCHealth cancer specialists visit WMCHealth Physicians, Bon Secours Medical Group for additional information and to schedule a consultation. For pediatric oncology, visit Maria Fareri Children's Hospital.