Colorectal cancer can develop at any age.

Colorectal cancer – cancer that begins in the colon or rectum – is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. More than 50,000 Americans are expected to die from it this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

But colorectal cancer is very treatable when identified early, so regular screenings are important. These exams can find polyps – abnormal growths inside the colon or rectum – that may eventually become cancerous. When discovered, doctors can remove the polyps to prevent cancer from spreading to the lymph nodes, liver, lungs or other parts. 

Young On-Set Colorectal Cancer

Young-onset colorectal cancer is on the rise, with 11% of colon cancer cases and 18% of rectal cancer cases occurring in people younger than 50, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance

Despite the death rate from colorectal cancer declining among the general population, the death rate among individuals younger than 55 grew by 1% each year between 2007-2016, the ACS reports.


Knowing the symptoms of colorectal cancer can be the difference between life and death. Although there may be few or no signs of a problem – it’s often called the “silent killer” – pay attention if you notice the following:

  • Blood in your stool: May be bright or dark red
  • Change in your bowel habits: Could include constipation, diarrhea, change in consistency
  • Frequent abdominal discomfort: Including gas, cramps, feeling bloated or as if bowel can’t empty
  • Fatigue: May be accompanied by weight loss, vomiting or nausea

The Colorectal Cancer Alliance surveyed young-onset colorectal cancer patients (average age at diagnosis was in their 40s) in 2018. That survey discovered the most common systems experienced by this group were constipation, blood in stool, bloating, rectal bleeding and diarrhea. Of these patients, 26% said they had one system, while 56% had at least three symptoms.

It’s important to remember that the early signs of colorectal cancer often do not involve pain, so be proactive in handling any concerns you may have.

If you notice any symptoms of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor immediately.