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Health Officials: Colon Cancer Cases, Deaths Increasing Among Young People

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A researcher calls this scary that not only are colorectal cancer rates going up but in spite of all the advances, deaths among people under the age of 55 are also increasing.

Colonoscopies that find pre-cancerous lesions save lives but the new research from the American Cancer Society says colorectal cases and deaths are up among younger people and it's not because of increased screenings.

The reason for the rise in both incidence and death rates remains unclear, however.

Dr. John Marks, the chief of colorectal surgery at Main Line Health, said there have been important advances in screenings and treatments.

"I think that with better attention to symptoms and screening at the ages younger than 50, we're catching things earlier and seeing them in a different age...demographic," he said.

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The new research says the increase in death rates from colon cancer among younger people applied to just to white patients, as blacks and other races races did not see an uptick .

Michael Rosengarten, a colon cancer patient, said "Having a disease like this changes your whole concept of life."

After being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer Rosengarten decided to fight back with exercise and diet. Previous research shows life style changes can improve survival rates.

Another study, found that colon cancer patients who ate at least two servings of tree nuts a week had a 46 percent lower chance of relapse. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews help control insulin levels and it's believed insulin can fuel the growth of colon cancer cells.

"Just because you have malignant disease doesn't mean you should give up," Rosengarten said.

The main risks for developing colon cancer include age and a family history. Doctors say there are usually no symptoms until it's advanced, which is why colonoscopies are so important.

If you have concerns, it's best to check with your doctor.

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