Colon cancer on the rise in young adults

UCI Health expert discusses possible factors driving new cases

June 14, 2023

IN THE NEWS: Primary care specialists, oncologists, other physicians and the healthcare community in general are well aware of the dramatic rise in colon cancer cases among those between the ages of 20 and 49, but the general public may not be.

Dr. Jason Zell, a hematology-oncology specialist at the UCI Health Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, spoke with CBS News about the spike and its potential causes.

"Physical activity, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for colorectal cancer in general. Colorectal cancer, unlike most other tumors, is extremely sensitive to dietary changes. The western dietary pattern, a diet high in fat, meats, sweets, is not good for colorectal cancer risk."

Zell emphasized the need for routine screening starting at age 45. He suggests calling your primary care physician if you notice anything unusual before then.

Zell specializes in the treatment of colon and other gastrointestinal cancers and is a professor at the UCI School of Medicine. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to perform genetic epidemiology-based colorectal cancer research. He is a principal or co-investigator for several NIH-funded trials involving patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. He is the author of more than 70 manuscripts and two book chapters.

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