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Colon Cancer on the Rise in Young Adults: What You Need to Know

Colorectal cancer, often referred to as colon cancer, is a growing health concern worldwide. Traditionally affecting older adults, a recent study reveals a disturbing trend: colorectal cancer diagnoses in people under 50 are on the rise in Africa. This calls for increased awareness and proactive steps to address this growing public health issue.

Colorectal cancer starts as abnormal growths called polyps in the large intestine. These polyps can develop into cancer over time and potentially spread to other parts of the body. While both men and women are susceptible, the risk increases with age. However, factors like race and ethnicity play a role, with African Americans and Alaska Natives facing a higher risk.

The new study estimates that in 2024, an alarming 13% of new colorectal cancer cases in Africa will be diagnosed in people under 50. This represents a significant 9% increase since 2020, highlighting a concerning shift. Experts like Dr. San Itzkowitz emphasize the need to address this trend through open conversations and public awareness campaigns.

Researchers are still grappling with the exact reasons behind the rise in early-onset colorectal cancer. However, some potential contributors have emerged:

  • Obesity: The increasing rates of childhood and adult obesity are suspected culprits.
  • Dietary Habits: Diets high in processed and red meats coupled with low fibre intake from fruits and vegetables have been linked to a higher risk.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Binge drinking, a growing trend among young adults, is another suspected contributor.

While the data focuses on Africa, the trend of rising colorectal cancer in young adults is likely a global concern. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment. Here’s where the challenge lies, particularly in regions of Africa with limited healthcare access and awareness. Screening programs like colonoscopies are often unavailable or underutilised. Additionally, cultural taboos surrounding bowel health can prevent young people from seeking medical help for symptoms like rectal bleeding, a common early sign of colorectal cancer. A lack of trained healthcare professionals specialising in gastroenterology can further hinder early diagnosis and treatment in these areas.

Despite the challenges, these are steps we, at Impact Health Care are undertaking to make a difference:

  • Public Health Awareness Campaigns: Impact HealthCare champions raising awareness about colorectal cancer, its risk factors, and early warning signs, especially among young adults. Educating young adults about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and encouraging open communication with healthcare providers can lead to earlier detection and better outcomes.
  • Focus on Healthy Lifestyles: We recommend promoting healthy diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while discouraging processed meats and excessive alcohol consumption. Regular physical activity is also beneficial.
  • Tailored Screening Programs: Developing age-appropriate and culturally sensitive screening programs for young adults is crucial. Exploring alternative screening methods that are less invasive than colonoscopies can make them more appealing to younger populations.
  • Invest in Global Healthcare Infrastructure: Strengthening healthcare systems, especially in regions with limited resources like Africa, can ensure better access to screening and treatment for all age groups. This includes training more healthcare professionals specialising in gastroenterology and investing in necessary medical equipment.

By promoting public awareness, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and investing in healthcare infrastructure, we can work towards a future where early detection and effective treatment are available to everyone, regardless of age or location. Impact HealthCare is committed to being a part of the solution. Early detection saves lives. Let’s talk about colorectal cancer and take steps to reduce our risk. By working together, we can make a significant impact in the fight against this disease.

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