Colon and rectal cancer used to be thought of as affecting mainly older people in Pittsburgh and around the country. In 1989, the median age of colorectal cancer patients was 72. Yet the median age dropped to 66 in 2016, and just as fewer people over the age of 65 are being diagnosed with the cancer, the number of patients under the age of 50 is growing.

Some alarming estimates

In 2017, the latest year for which the CDC has complete data, 52,547 people died from colorectal cancer. Experts estimate that 53,200 people will die in 2020 and that 3,640 of them, or 7%, will be under the age of 50. In addition, they estimate that 147,950 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020 with 17,930 of them, or 12%, being under 50.

Reason for the trend unknown

Researchers have not figured out why more younger people are getting colorectal cancer, but they believe the rise in obesity may be contributing to it. Some researchers are exploring the ways that certain foods and drugs, including antibiotics, determine what microorganisms make up the gut microbiome, and this could shed light on the trend.

Such analyses may help encourage more people to get early screening. The American Cancer Society does recommend that people start being screened for colorectal cancer from the age of 45.

For those injured by a misdiagnosis

Many cancer patients are initially misdiagnosed or suffer from a delayed diagnosis, and in some of these cases, the error is due to medical negligence. If you believe you suffered preventable harm at the hands of a negligent doctor, you may have a medical malpractice case on your hands. A lawyer may help you seek out compensation for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses. The process can be difficult, but the lawyer may give guidance at every step.