More young people dying of colorectal cancer and researchers don’t know why

In recent years, reports have consistently shown colorectal cancer rates have been rising in Americans under the age of 55.

Now, a new study finds that not only are cases increasing, but deaths from colorectal cancer are also on the rise in this age group.

Researchers say the findings are particularly worrisome because this means the increase in diagnoses in this age group is not solely the result of more screening with colonoscopies.

“This is not good news. We looked at adults from ages 20 to 54 and following several decades of pretty rapid declines in death rates, over the past decade deaths in this age group have been increasing,” lead investigator Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society, told CBS News. “This indicates that there’s actually a true increase in disease. It’s not just detection of disease that was there and that we’re catching it earlier.”

Researchers said the increase colorectal cancer deaths in people in their 50s was particularly unexpected since screening — which can both prevent colon cancer and detect it early — has been recommended starting at age 50 for decades.

Using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the researchers analyzed colorectal cancer deaths in people aged 20 to 54 from 1970 through 2014. The analysis included more than 242,000 people who died from colorectal cancer during this time. The study is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Another striking finding was that the trend is being driven by increases in colorectal deaths among white men and women. Although African-Americans are still more likely to die from colon cancer than whites, the rate among African-Americans has declined.

Overall, mortality rates from colorectal cancer in adults age 20 to 54 declined from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1970 to 3.9 in 2004. After 2004, death rates began to increase slightly each year, reaching 4.3 per 100,000 in 2014.

In white individuals, death rates increased from 3.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 4.1 in 2014. In contrast, mortality declined over time for African-Americans, from 8.1 in 1970 to 6.1 in 2014.

These findings are consistent with an increase in the number of whites getting diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but not blacks.

However, Siegel says it’s still surprising because the findings are inconsistent with trends for major risk factors for colorectal cancer like obesity.

“The thinking has been that the reason we’re seeing the…

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