Why younger adults miss early signs of colon cancer

Experts warn that more and more people under the age of 40 are being diagnosed with bowel cancer, saying they may be missing the early signs.

a study released Friday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open said that the most common warning sign of the cancer is blood in the stool. Abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits and anemia can also be 'red flags'.

The article analyzed 81 studies that examined nearly 25 million adults under the age of 50 from various countries around the world.

Nearly half of the individuals in the sample presented with hematochezia (the passing of fresh blood in or with the stool) and abdominal pain. A quarter of people noticed changed eating habits.

The experts also explained that delays in detection were common, and that the average time from presentation of symptoms to cancer diagnosis was approximately six months. Due to a delay in diagnosis, younger adults often present with more advanced disease by the time it is discovered, they noted.

Rates of colon and rectal cancer have increased among younger adults but have decreased among older adults, who are more likely to undergo cancer-causing colonoscopies, the report found.

Millennials born around 1990 are almost twice as likely to develop colon cancer than people born in the 1950s. The New York Times reports this.

Just as younger people can ignore early warning signs, so can doctors. Anecdotal evidence suggests that doctors are less likely to suspect that younger people have malignancies, the Times said.

The analysis did not address the cause of the rising rates of colon and rectal cancer in younger adults.

Their findings also come after an expert advisory panel said earlier this year that women should start regular breast cancer screenings at age 40. The previous guideline said they would start at age 50.

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