August 23rd, 2010
10:32 AM ET

Rectal cancer up among younger adults

A new study finds rectal cancer rates are rising among adults under 40, the journal Cancer reported Monday.

Using National Cancer Institute data, the study found cancer rates remain low but are increasing among both men and women and across racial groups.

Dr. Joshua E. Meyer, the study’s lead author, says doctors should consider rectal cancer as a real though remote possibility when assessing patients with bloody stools or other abnormal bowel movements.

“We do know that in younger patients there could be a delay in diagnosis,” Meyer said. “When doctors see a patient who is bleeding or has some of these other symptoms I hope doctors put this on the list.”

Hemorrhoids remain the most likely cause of a bloody stool, but misdiagnosing cancer as hemorrhoids could allow the cancer to grow and spread throughout the body, he added

Rectal cancer rates rose an average of 2.6 percent from 1973 to 2005, with the increase starting in 1984, the study found. During the same period, colon cancer rates remained flat.

Meyer, who is in the Radiation Oncology Department at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said the reason for the increase is unclear. If changes in lifestyle such as a fatty diet were the cause, then colon cancer rates should also be rising, he said.

Rectal cancer remains rare, about one in every 238,000 people during the time period of the study. Colon cancer was almost three times as common.

The journal Cancer is published by the American Cancer Society.

soundoff (259 Responses)
  1. Starbaby

    Oh Please vtx13cnj, it's ridicilous to be that obsessed -- give it a rest. If a dog craps in your yard, is that Obama's fault too?

    August 23, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Mooseknuckle


    August 23, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pepe LePoop

      They tell us to get tested but then doctors say we cant get it cuz we are too young. Then what?

      August 23, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • RN

      Then you tell your doctor that he works for you and to run the test. If he refuses, fire him. Geez, how hard is it?

      August 23, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse |
  3. cmg

    Those are some insensitive comments. We need to take this seriously– Rectal cancer runs in my family, and I would like to know why it's appearing in younger people.

    August 23, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Donna

      First intelligent comment. I am wondering if it might be something in the environment, such as some pollutant.

      August 23, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You went to a comments section on rectal cancer and expected a mature conversation? LOL, I knew better. This is disturbing, however. This may be due to an environmental pollutant, a food pollutant, or potentially even HPV transmitted through anal intercourse. We need to find out.

      August 23, 2010 at 16:01 | Report abuse |
    • joy

      it "runs" in your family.....haha, priceless!

      August 23, 2010 at 21:33 | Report abuse |
  4. Dr. Johnson

    Since HPV (human papilloma virus) can causes cervical cancer, perhaps it can also cause an increase in rectal cancer due to anal intercourse...a sexual history should be included in the work-up..

    August 23, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      The same thought crossed my mind. If there were a large amount of homosexual men and women who have anal sex that are coming down with RC, this would be a primary suspect.

      August 23, 2010 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      This is exactly what I thought! I thought it was a no brainer, especially when the article mentioned that something like bad diet would also show an increase in colon cancer, which isn't happening. People are breaking social and sexual taboos and exploring their sexuality more, which is great, but because it is still taboo people don't know how to protect themselves, and thus spread diseases. And BTW Dave, heterosexuals have anal sex, too. If a guy has HPV and has anal sex with his girlfriend, she's the one who could get RC.

      August 24, 2010 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    Rectal cancer like all cancers, arise when certain states of inflammation turns on an oncogene, so any condition like constipation, hard stool due to a low fiber diet, and rectal intercourse, among other possible reasons. It has to be taken seriously, because the quality of life in such a patient can be quite terrible. There is no one simple reason, it is multifaceted, but nowadays, more young people are taking risks that are new. Once thought to be a sturdy area, that could take a banging, we wee now it is a delicate zone, not created for abuse.

    August 23, 2010 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. HPV

    While certainly not the only cause of anal and rectal cancers, HPV is certainly high on the list. How did Dr. Meyer miss this as a potential cause?

    August 23, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Joe

    Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) transmitted by rectal sex is the most likely culprit.

    August 23, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Manny HM

      Rectal intercourse is not necessarily the vehicle that brings the cancer causing virus from cervix/vagina to the rectum/anus area. They are very close neighbors ! Just sitting and moving move fluid backward and forward. I do hope, it doesn't become a common belief that rectal or anal cancer means that anal intercourse is the culprit with its negative connotation.

      August 23, 2010 at 18:18 | Report abuse |
  8. real-er

    HPV anyone?

    August 23, 2010 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. real-er

    From Wiki: "Examination of squamous cell carcinoma tumor tissues from patients in Denmark and Sweden showed a high proportion of anal cancers to be positive for the types of HPV that are also associated with high risk of cervical cancer (90% of the tumors from women, 100% of the tumors from homosexual men, and 58% of tumors from heterosexual men). In another study done, high-risk types of HPV, notably HPV-16, were detected in 84 percent of anal cancer specimens examined."

    August 23, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Cancer survivor

    I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 25, had corrective surgery, and hopefully I will never get it again ....Please everyone, get a rutine colonoscopy!!...Early detection is the key to survival!! Take care of yourselves!!

    August 23, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sam

      I am glad for you but as young people we are prejudiced against by the medical community. I have had doctor after doctor DENY me for doing a colonoscopy because I am TOO YOUNG. Even my insurance refuses to pay for it because they feel it is not necessary. I am so sick of these insurances deciding for my health what is and is not necessary. I pay them alot every month for health insurance and then they turn around and deny me rights to screen for illnesses?? Obviously its all a ploy. They want you to get sick so you can be a patient for life. They make no money when you have no illnesses. Its all a twisted scheme.

      August 23, 2010 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      @ Sam – You need a more aggressive doctor. I'm a bit older than you but still under "typical" colon cancer age. I asked my doctor about it, she asked me why I thought I should be concerned, and I explained a family history, not of cancer but of polyps. Done. For many years I went to an assembly line doctor, then I wisened up.

      August 23, 2010 at 17:41 | Report abuse |
  11. Runphas7

    Sam, your post is a perfect example of our broken health care system. Until we can free Americans from the profit driven employer finance method of providing health care coverage we are at the mercy of the corporate board rooms.

    August 23, 2010 at 14:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      A balance has to be struck. Whether it's an employer or government financed system, it has to have the ability to say "no" sometimes. You shouldn't be able to order up a test that costs several thousand dollars unless there is something indicated wrong - symptoms, family history, or whatever. I assume in Sam's case that there was some reason aside from hypochondria that the test was necessary but if that's incorrect, it should be denied...unless it's private pay.

      August 23, 2010 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
    • Bush

      I pay nearly 300 bucks a month simply to be able to PAY for health insurance. You are paying them to be able to pay them. That is what the premiums are all about. If I feel that I need a test to be sure I am not going to drop dead of something, that is my business. They always get paid for it so why are you concerned? The doctor should have ZERO say in what I feel is necessary to take care of this one body I have.

      August 23, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse |
  12. buba bob

    Who wrote this headline? I laughed so hard I blew milk out my nose. Thanks. (Hope I don't get nasal cancer as a result of this.)

    August 23, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. chosin one

    buba bob, if you find this headline or rectal cancer humorous, you most likely have the ability to blow milk out of more than one orifice.

    August 23, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. scroo yoo

    Now why dont people march for this like they do breast cancer?

    August 23, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Davis

      Because its a pain in the BUTT.

      August 23, 2010 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
  15. Lori

    I blame anal sex.

    August 23, 2010 at 15:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Steven

    Let's try to be mature about rectal cancer in the......eh, who am I kidding. HAHAHAA.

    August 23, 2010 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. boppitaboopy

    ...so the proctologist said "Rectum? It nearly killed him!" Thank you, I'll be here all week.

    August 23, 2010 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. darkashian

    too much pot and beer makes for bad news at the ANUS!!!

    August 23, 2010 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Zience

    If it is HPV related, don't sit on anything anymore. Denmark and Sweden study is missing one portion of critical information: the rate of HPV and its reservoirs in people without cancer. With something as endemic as HPV, you can associate this virus to nearly any disease. Probably a dietary or environmental cause such as hydrocarbon carcinogens from high heat cooking.

    August 23, 2010 at 16:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. darkashian

    how about cleaning the DODO off ur tong? U got a dingleberry of shi+ hanging from ur douchenozzle.

    August 23, 2010 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Charles

    Be decent. I have family member undergoing Chemo and Radiation at this moment for Rectal Cancer. This is very serious and painful. A family man who had routine scopes over the last 10 years and the Docs missed this slow growing tumor. Now in Stage 3. He has been proactive for years and years, regarding physical exams, and scopes since having a polyp removed in the early 1980's, and now this. Grow up w/ some of these stupid postings and have some humanity. For the folks who have been helpful and clinical in focus, Thank you.

    August 23, 2010 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Davis

      Yeah people... BUTT out!

      ...........get it? BUTT out? haahhahahaha

      August 23, 2010 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
  22. Charles

    The fool who posted after me. One of these days, what comes around will go around in your life. You'll be praying to God Almighty to stop some tragedy or pain that you are living at the moment, and won't know why it is happening to you. This is why. The pitiful stuff you have just written. Sad, sad.

    August 23, 2010 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Bob Frapples

    I don't want to Pooh Pooh this subject and I know this many sound Corny but please listen to the hole statement..

    IT'S AND EXIT! NOT AN ENTRANCE!..Between Fast Food going in at the top and who knows what going in the back..damage is done...

    August 23, 2010 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. HockeyMom

    An anus is built and designed to evacuate the bowels–not for sex. The HPV virus is definitely a contributing factor, however, the increasing number of people having anal sex can not be dismissed as a major contributing factor as well.

    August 23, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. roseternal

    I think that more and more people are doing the unnatural thing and going into the exit door during sexual relations, that this is why there is such an increase in this type of cancer. All the stuff people are doing in that area is not natural, even putting all kinds of objects and chemicals in there.

    August 24, 2010 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. John the Baptist

    There has been an unusually high percentage of people with cancer as the years have passed, and it only seems to get worse. I think we need to stop and ask ourselves what is going on? Is it the water we're drinking? The food we're eating? The common chemicals we run into everyday in plastics? What is going on here? And are there people who know the truth, yet continue to allow these things to occur in the quest for the all mighty dollar? Google it!

    August 24, 2010 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Smarty Pants

    There is a very good reason why this is coming up now. Beginning in the late 80s the number of young people (15-35) engaging in anal sex on a regular or occasional basis increased. What not many people realize is that the same viruses that can cause cervical cancer are also implicated in most cases of anal cancer.

    Hence, changes in sexual attitudes and behaviors are two of the reasons we have seen a rise in anal cancer rates among young people.

    August 24, 2010 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. anna

    rectal cancer is 99% most likely to happen to ppl above the age of 62, I really dont think these folks are having a lot of anal sex. some of these comments definately show some pure idiots who needs some common sense before opening there ignorant mouths. and yes , Karma does exsist so when they get cancer, it will not be a joke or big laugh then...will it?? what definate immaturity

    September 7, 2010 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Ferne Buggs

    I've truly by no means taken that viewpoint on it. I guess its good to investigation and learn up on these type of issues every so often in order that way one is never out in the loop. regards!

    November 25, 2010 at 20:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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    In Stage 0 rectal cancer, the tumor is located only on the inner lining of the rectum. To treat this early stage cancer, surgery can be performed to remove the tumor or a small section of the rectum where the cancer is located can be removed. Radiation treatment, given either externally (beamed in from the outside) or internally (radioactive beads are placed inside the rectum) may be considered. .;...

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