OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Doctors across the country warn they're seeing an increased number of cases of colon cancer in patients younger than 50.
Now doctors and the American Cancer Society recommend Americans with average risk for developing colon cancer get a screening at age 45, instead of waiting until they're 50 years old.
"It's a little bit alarming because we used to tell people age 50 and on is when you get a colonoscopy," said Dr. Addison Tolentino, an oncologist with Saint Luke's Health System.
Tolentino said it often takes years for polyps in the colon to turn into cancer, so detecting them early can help prevent cancer from forming.
"It caught me off guard," said Eddy Parker, who was diagnosed with colon cancer this summer at age 38.
Parker said he noticed inconsistency and blood in his stool. After consulting with a doctor, he went to the emergency room and is now starting a treatment plan with Saint Luke's to fight the cancer.
"Hopefully I'm part of the reason why they continue to research to see why it's going down to the younger ages," Parker said.
Tolentino said research offers some insight into why more younger people are getting colon cancer. Some studies show children who are overweight in childhood and adulthood are more likely to develop colon cancer. And diets with lots of red and processed meats are linked to the cancer.
Parker said he wants others to learn from his experience and listen to their bodies.
"If you start seeing any type of issues, just get checked," he said. "It's better to be checked early than to be too late."
If a blood relative had colon cancer, Tolentino suggested you should find out at what age they were diagnosed and get a screening yourself 10 years earlier than that age.