Bowel Cancer in Young Adults Is on the Rise—Here’s What You Need to Know

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Gut health is one of the most important indicators of overall health—a claim that research backs up again and again. The gut microbiome has been linked to everything from mental health and obesity to the strength of your immune system. In conjunction with those findings, prebiotics, probiotics, and gut-health-enhancing fermented drinks are on the rise—which is why it's so surprising that a new study found that the rate of gut-related cancer among millennials is also on the rise.

Between 1983 and 2013 there was a 3 percent increase in the number of people aged 20 to 29 who were diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the analysis of data from more than 490,000 people found that although the incidence of bowel cancer is generally on the decline, between 1983 and 2013, there was a 3 percent increase in the number of people aged 20 to 29 diagnosed with the cancer, Business Insider reports. And although 90 to 100 percent of early colorectal cancer is curable, typically colonoscopies are only routinely offered to people older than 50—meaning young people suffering from the disease tend to go untreated.

Researchers of the study therefore suggest that colon screenings should be initiated in people younger than 50, and in the meantime, these folks should be on the lookout for symptoms that include cramps, fatigue, bloody bowel movements, unintended weight loss.

So, what's causing this increase in the first place? Despite our growing obsession with gut-focused products, studies have indicted the rise may be due to facets of the American lifestyle, such as the Western diet and lack of exercise, that lead to our high national obesity rates (36.5 percent of US adults are obese). Additionally, anal sex and human papilloma viruses (HPV) may factor into the increase, which is just yet another reason to practice safe sex and consider getting the HPV vaccine.

Still, there is a more positive interpretation of this study: Yes, colonoscopies rates are higher than before, but that's partly because bowel cancer is being identified more frequently—not necessarily because more people are getting it.

So, consider these findings as another important reason to be monitoring your gut health.

Other ways to watch your gut health include tracking how often you drink alcohol or trying a new pill sensor.

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