Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. While a known risk factor is older age (above 50 years old); in recent decades, colorectal cancer has been affecting an increasing number of people younger than 50 years old. While the exact reason for the trend is unknown, things like an unhealthy modern diet, family history, obesity, and smoking may be contributing factors.
This trend underscores the importance of consulting a colorectal specialist in Singapore for timely screening, sometimes even for people under 50 years old. When detected early through tests such as a colonoscopy, precancerous polyps can be removed easily, preventing them from developing into cancer.
In the 2000s, colorectal cancer showed a drop in incidence among individuals aged 65 and older. However, since then, there has been an annual incidence increase of 1% among people aged 50 to 64 years, and a 2% increase in people younger than 50. Further studies show that about 15% to 20% of people under 35 diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a family history of the disease.
Timely screening (especially through colonoscopy) is the most important way to prevent or detect the early stages of colorectal cancer.
While more older adults may know about colorectal cancer screening, young adults – not being the classic high-risk group – may not be aware, resulting in lower screening rates and higher incidence rates (since less pre-cancerous cases are detected early and prevented). Providing access for young adults to screening tests and colonoscopies is essential for early diagnosis and better colorectal cancer treatment outcomes.
As a general rule, people who are at an average risk of developing colorectal cancer should undergo screening at age 50 onwards, usually at a ten-year interval should the test come back normal. Those who are at a heightened risk should consult a colorectal surgeon or colon specialist in Singapore about their recommended screening schedule. A colorectal cancer specialist can discuss the different tests available.
Generally, screening is the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, even when there are no symptoms yet (most cases of colorectal cancer do not have symptoms in the early stages). A colonoscopy in particular can detect even pre-cancerous polyps, which will be removed on the spot before it potentially turns malignant.
Having a varied diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying active can help lower your colorectal cancer risk level. Your colon surgeon may also inform you about the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer, which include:
Early detection and screening can help save lives. While cancer is not a main concern at a younger age, it is still important to know about the risk factors and signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer. Make sure to consult your colorectal surgeon in Singapore if you suspect you may be at risk of colorectal cancer.