Colon cancer is increasingly affecting younger people. However, the first warning signs are often misinterpreted in younger patients and it can take several months until the correct diagnosis is made. A study from California shows which symptoms occur specifically in those affected under the age of 50.

Colon cancer is not just a disease of old age. Younger people are also increasingly receiving the diagnosis. In the United States, the number of new cases in the 20 to 49 age group increases by about 1.3 percent each year. This is despite the fact that cases are declining among people aged 50 and over.

Despite the increasing numbers, many younger sufferers do not immediately think of colon cancer when faced with certain symptoms – neither do their family doctors. As a result, the disease is only recognized later, which can make it more difficult for treatment to be successful.

A team led by gastroenterologist Joshua Demb from the University of California has now looked at the question: What symptoms specifically occur in people under 50 who are subsequently diagnosed with colon cancer? The researchers also wanted to clarify: How long does it take from the first visit to the doctor to the correct diagnosis?

To clarify this, the researchers analyzed a huge amount of data: a total of 81 studies with information from almost 25 million colon cancer patients who were younger than 50 years old at the time of diagnosis. The studies came from all over the world, most from Europe, North America and the Middle East.

Other symptoms that were mentioned less frequently were:

On average, it took four to six months for patients to receive the correct diagnosis. In some cases it even took more than a year, the scientists report.

If blood is visible in or on the stool when going to the toilet, those affected should definitely go to the doctor. A colonoscopy, known by experts as a colonoscopy, is the most important diagnostic tool. It can detect cancer and its precursors in any section of the rectum and large intestine, up to the appendix and the end of the small intestine.

However, bloody stools are not only a warning sign of colon cancer. They can also indicate inflammatory processes in the intestine, caused by Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, for example. These diseases can also be diagnosed with a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy takes around 30 minutes. The patient lies on his side on a couch. If necessary, he will receive a drug for a short anesthesia. The doctor inserts a flexible tube with a small camera on it through the anus. With this colonoscope he can thoroughly examine the entire intestine. The examination can be uncomfortable but is rarely painful.

If there are no symptoms that indicate an intestinal disease, a colonoscopy is still recommended for every man aged 50 and over and every woman aged 55 and over – earlier if there is a family history of colon cancer risk. The health insurance companies then cover the costs.

A study by the German Institute for Nutrition Research on almost 350,000 Europeans between the ages of 25 and 70 found that if you pay attention to the following five factors, you can reduce your risk of colon cancer by up to 37 percent.

Even those who only adhere to two rules have a 13 percent reduced risk of becoming ill, according to the study. However, the individual risk is different for each person: genetics play just as much a role as various previous illnesses.