Changes in Colon Cancer: March 28, 2011

A recent study finds that more younger Americans are being diagnosed with colon cancer. Dr. Valerie Dyke, a colorectal surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health system, is seeing it firsthand. "We are seeing younger and younger patients with colon polyps and colon cancer. We've actually had two people who were 29 years old with colon cancer."

While it's not clear what causes colon cancer, those with a family history are at a higher risk of developing it. But Dr. Dyke and staff say genetics alone aren't the only culprit. "I think it's important to realize that although colorectal cancer is a hereditary disease, that 85% of colorectal cancer is what we call: sporadic: meaning that you are the first person in your family to ever have it."

So, what should Americans do? Ask questions. It's also recommended that you talk to your doctor about your concerns, how your current lifestyle may play a role in your health, and your screening options. "I think that diet and exercise are important but I have lots of patients who are healthy and thin and trying to do everything just right and they are still found to have a colon cancer on a colonoscopy and they still may be a-symptomatic," adds Dr. Dyke.

And keep in mind, as you age, your risk for developing colon cancer increases. That's why a discussion about your individual screening schedule is so important.