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A growing number of millennials and Generation Xers have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Traditionally this cancer is associated with older people, but three out of 10 diagnoses are now occurring in people younger than 55.
“Do we change screening recommendations? Why is this happening? Do we need to take a big look in the mirror at lifestyle?” wonders ER Physician Dr. Travis Stork. Smoking, obesity, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles are all known risk factors for colorectal cancer.
Urologist Dr. Jennifer Berman thinks part of the answer may lie in sexual health – she notes that younger people may be more likely to engage in behaviors that carry a possible risk. "There is a link between anal sex and colorectal cancer," she says. "I think part of this is the sexual conduct that the millennials are engaging in, and they all need to be aware of this."
Although there’s no clear indication of what might be causing the increase, Dr. Stork notes, “We do know that healthy lifestyles in general reduce the risk of all cancers.”
His takeaway is that, regardless of your age, if you notice blood in your stools or that your stools are very dark, see your doctor. And if you have a family member who has been diagnosed with bowel cancer, schedule a colonoscopy – even if you think you’re too young to worry. talk to your doctor about your risk factors and scheduling a colonoscopy.