Throughout Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about what you can do in order to protect yourself from this type of cancer. One of the most important things is remembering to get screened (especially if you are over the age of 50). Well, it seems like more people are taking this to heart! In fact, a new report shows that rates of colon cancer have fallen by 30 percent over the past decade in people over the age of 50.
Just ask the American Cancer Society and they’ll tell you that this is one of the greatest public health successes of the last ten years! The Society’s chief cancer control officer, Richard Wender, says that much of the credit should go to the reported hikes in colonoscopy screenings.
(Quick Fact: National Guidelines recommend getting screened for colon cancer after turning 50.)
More Americans are Getting Colonoscopies
Screening tests like colonoscopies allow doctors to locate and extract pre-cancerous polyps before they can become malignant. The number of Americans who have chosen to get screened for colon cancer has practically tripled over the last ten years:
- 19% of Americans aged 50 to 64 in 2000
- 55% of Americans aged 50 to 64 by 2010
The rate of colorectal screening has improved amongst seniors as well since the turn of the Millenium:
- 55% of Americans aged 65 and older in 2000
- 64% of Americans aged 65 and older by 2010
This positive success story has only emboldened organizations like the American Cancer Society to further improve the rate of screening over the next few years. Their goal is to reach 80% of eligible people screened by 2018.
A Deadly and Silent Killer
Colorectal cancer is still a deadly disease that should be taken very seriously. Most people won’t notice any symptoms until their cancer has already progressed to a more advanced stage. Here are just some of the stats on colorectal cancers from the American Cancer Society:
- An estimated 136,830 Americans will be diagnosed in 2014
- An estimate 50,310 will succumb to this disease in 2014
- Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the country
Leading institutions like the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are now focused on providing at-risk populations more improved access to cancer screening tests. The report has shown that the mortality rate linked to colon cancer has dropped at a rate of nearly 3% annually for the last ten years. Getting higher risk patients screened will help this number grow exponentially.
(Fast Fact: Colonoscopies help reduce cancer death rate by allowing doctors to identify cancerous tumors at an earlier stage.)
More Colorectal Cancer in People Under 50
Thanks to Medicare, people over 65 exhibited the greatest reduction in colon cancer incidence in the last decade. Medicare provides them with free access to these colon cancer screenings. The Affordable Care Act also provides free access to screenings for policyholders.
The reduced rate of cancer in older people is particularly intriguing given that the rate of colorectal cancer is actually growing amongst younger people. Rates have grown by around 1.1% annually in people under 50. The report suggests that this increase in colon cancers could be linked to poor diets and rising obesity rates.
Studies have linked the majority of colorectal cancers to poor lifestyle habits, including:
- Eating lots of processed or red meat
- Not getting regular exercise
This represents another serious challenge for organizations like the American Cancer Society. In order to make a lasting dent in the incidence of colorectal cancer, more people need to realize the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Hopefully the instances of colorectal cancer in young people will soon be on the decline, as their older counterparts’ rate is now.