No, You’re Too Young to Have Colon Cancer

colon-cancerThe vast majority of people who are diagnosed with colon cancer are over the age of 50. In fact, the average age of colon cancer diagnosis in the United States is 72. However, colon cancer can and does occur in people in their teens, twenties, thirties and forties. These ages of diagnosis are typical in people with hereditary cancer syndromes.

Unfortunately, symptoms of colon cancer in young people are often ignored, dismissed or misdiagnosed. This month we will highlight a few stories of young patients with a few of these hereditary colon cancer syndromes.

If you have a personal and/or family history of any of the following, you may be at increased risk for a hereditary colon cancer syndrome.

  • Early-onset colon, uterine, or gastric cancer (under <50 years)
  • These clusters of cancers or physical findings on the same side of the family -Colon, uterine, ovarian, biliary tract, or urinary tract cancers -Multiple adenomas (a type of colon polyps) -Desmoid tumors (rare, benign tumors that arise from connective tissue) -Osteomas (bony growths)
  • The occurrence of multiple, primary (new) cancers in one individual -For example, colon, uterine and ovarian cancers
  • Individuals with multiple and/or early-onset gastrointestinal polyps cumulative totals of: - >10 adenomatous polyps - >5 hamartomatous or juvenile polyps, or - 2+  confirmed Peutz-Jeghers hamartomatous polyps
  • The following rare or unusual tumors or physical findings -Sebaceous carcinomas/adenomas -Multiple trichilemmomas/oral papillomas
  • Any Lynch syndrome-related tumor (most likely, colorectal or uterine) tumor that is MSI or IHC abnormal
  • There is a known genetic mutation (e.g. MLH1, MYH, APC) in your family

Please contact a certified genetic counselor if any of the above risk factors are seen in your personal or family history so that you can learn your options for genetic testing and early surveillance.

Photo by Stephen Dickter, via Flickr