More young people dying of colon cancer; researchers don’t know why

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America and it’s on the rise.

"So even with - you're supposed to be screened 10 years prior to that and I wasn't even old enough. Even knowing my family history, I still didn't push for that until it was suggested to me."

Anne Schaar, 31, has been battling colon cancer since August 2015.

She says she had a family history of colon cancer and originally thought she had the flu. Turns out, it was stage 4 colon cancer.

Cleveland Clinic medical oncologist Dr. Dale Shepard says, "I think it shows a dangerous trend that we've seen along the way. We've known that incidents have gone up, we've seen at the Clinic. I have a 32-year-old patient now with metastatic colon cancer."

Shepard is speaking out about a new study conducted by the American Cancer Society.

It shows colon cancer deaths are on the rise among younger adults and no one knows why. Routine screening is generally not recommended for most adults under the age of 50.

The cancers found in younger adults are often in advanced stages and more deadly.

"I think both the increase in incidents and the increase in mortality in this population does make us consider whether we should change what we're doing from a screening prospective," says Dr. Shepard.

Colon cancer symptoms may include rectal bleeding, change in bowel movement and abdominal discomfort.

Those at higher risk should get their first test ten years before the age of the relative diagnosed with the disease.

The new study also shows a surprising racial divide.

While white Americans are seeing mortality rates increase, African-American deaths between the ages of 20 and 54 are on the decline.

"But I think one of the most important messages is that people less than 50, people under 50, can certainly get colon cancer and they can certainly die of colon cancer."

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