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Rising Colorectal Cancer Crisis in Young Adult Populations: How to Prevent

While colorectal cancer rates are decreasing for older patients, risks in the younger population have increased by 1-2% a year. Young adults are also diagnosed with third or fourth-stage colorectal cancer and their survival rates are not much better than the older population either.

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In this blog post by Pacific Prime Dubai, we will be going over the rise in colorectal cancer in young adults and how to prevent it so that you can ensure your safety.

Overview: The Rise in Colorectal Cancer in Younger Adults

36-year old emergency medicine physician, Dr. Lara Lambert, began manifesting symptoms when she noticed intense, frequent bloody stools. Initially, she believed the frequent bleeding was a mere result of irritable bowel syndrome and that colorectal cancer was just “an older man’s disease”.

However, at age 40, despite low red meat and alcohol consumption and no traces of concerning family history, a colonoscopy procedure revealed she was diagnosed with stage 3c of colorectal cancer.

Based on this case, it’s clear that colorectal cancer rates in adults below the age of 50 have risen by 1-2% per year since the 1990s.

According to the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Care Institute, Dr. Kimmie NG, not only are younger adults being diagnosed with third or fourth stage colorectal cancer, but their survival rates aren’t any better than adults aged 50 and above either.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer (also known as colon or rectal cancer, depending on which part is affected) is the abnormal growth of cells in the colon or rectum. Most colorectal cancers begin as tumors, known as polyps, growing on the inner lining of the colon or rectum.

Polyps that develop in the colon or rectum may not be obvious to patients at first, which is why getting regular cancer screening is especially important.


Common symptoms of colorectal cancer include bloody stools, constipation, weight loss, and tiredness. And if the symptoms persist, you should immediately seek medical attention. Below are the possible symptoms of colorectal cancer.

  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Bloody stools.
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling as if you haven’t completely emptied out your bowels.
  • Abdominal pain or cramps.
  • Weight loss.
  • Tiredness.

If you notice lasting symptoms such as intense, frequent bloody stools, seek medical attention immediately.

Risk Factors

General risk factors for colorectal cancer include family history with colorectal cancer, fatty diet, lack of exercise, and smoking and alcohol drinking. Below are common risk factors for colorectal cancer.

  • Family history of colorectal cancer: Having any blood relatives with colorectal cancer can increase one’s likelihood of getting colorectal cancer themselves and having multiple blood relatives with colorectal cancer will also increase the risk.
  • Low-fiber, high fat diet: Colorectal cancer is linked to low-fiber diet with high calories and fats.
  • Lack of regular exercise: People who are less active are more likely to get colorectal cancer.
  • Diabetes and Obesity: People with diabetes also develop colorectal cancer. Additionally, people affected by obesity are also more susceptible to colorectal cancer and have a greater risk of succumbing to the cancer.
  • Smoking and Alcohol Drinking: People who smoke and drink alcohol can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer on top of lung cancer from smoking and liver cancer from alcohol drinking.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel diseases causing abdominal pain and swelling, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase one’s susceptibility to colorectal cancer.


Getting regular colorectal cancer screening is strongly recommended for those with an average risk and those with an increased risk, such as family history of colorectal cancer or being smokers and drinkers, should consider getting the cancer screening even sooner.

For those with average risk, simple lifestyle changes such as regular exercise or dietary changes can help lower their risk of developing colorectal cancer. Below are some key methods of prevention to help you lower the risk.

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain: Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which can help prevent cancer. By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you will also get a wide range of nutrients. 
  • Refrain from smoking and alcohol consumption: This will not only lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer, but also lung and liver cancer from smoking and drinking alcohol as well.
  • Exercise regularly: Try to get at least half an hour of exercise each day. If you were mostly inactive before, take your time and slowly build up your workout duration by starting small with jogging or squatting.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: If you’re already at a healthy weight, keep up your healthy diet and workout routine to maintain that good weight. If you need to lose weight, start by eating low-calorie diets and slowly build up your workout routine.


In conclusion, while it’s true that colorectal cancer is common in older adults, younger adults could also be at risk of developing the cancer due to various risk factors such as family history,lifestyle, and dietary choices.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean prevention is next to impossible altogether. With regular cancer screenings and some lifestyle adjustments by changing your diet, working out, and refraining from tobacco and alcohol, you can effortlessly lower your risk of colorectal cancer at a young age.

As an international health insurance broker, Pacific Prime Dubai has experience matching both expats and local citizens to a health insurance plan that matches both their budget and unique healthcare needs.

Whether you’re a local citizen in Dubai or an expat, our team of specialists will be more than happy to help you out. And if you have any further questions, please get in touch with us.

Content Writer at Pacific Prime Dubai
Wish Sutthatothon (Nickname: Guy) is currently a content writer at Pacific Prime Thailand, an insurance broker that connects individuals and businesses with insurance providers worldwide. He creates and edits blog articles, guides, reports, webpages, and other types of digital content.

He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts, Media & Communication major (concentration: Creative Content) from Mahidol University International College (MUIC). During the compulsory major elective period in the summer of 2021 and voluntarily during the summer of 2022, he also interned as a video and photo editor at Mbrella Films.

He has experience working as an English Content Writer at a real estate buying/renting/selling platform in Thonglor. There, he crafted company blog posts on a multitude of topics. Topics include market trends, legal issues and disputes in property businesses, financial guides, expat guides, home insurance, home decoration and maintenance, and weekly real estate news quick-recaps. Occasionally, as part of the blog-writing process, he would also translate existing Thai blogs to English.

In his free time, Guy enjoys doing scriptwriting and storytelling for comic strips, watching movies, and listening to music (particularly film scores).
Wish Sutthatothon