Maui News

DOH: Colon Cancer rates rise in adults under 50; screening recommended for 45- to 75-year-olds

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Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, is on the rise among people younger than 50, prompting a recent recommendation for everyone 45-75 years old to get screened, according to the state Department of Health.

According to a report by the American Cancer Society, someone born in 1990 is twice as likely to develop colon cancer as someone born in 1950.

The DOH says patients under 50 also presented with more advanced disease, lowering the likelihood that treatment would be effective.


Because routine screening hasn’t been offered to adults under 50 until recently, the DOH says colon cancer can be difficult to diagnose.

Symptoms include:

  • Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain, including cramps or gas
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss

Medical professionals say these symptoms can also occur with other health conditions, including bowel disease or hemorrhoids.


“People under 50 are more likely to attribute their symptoms to one of those conditions instead of colon cancer, which was previously considered a disease of older people,” according to officials with the DOH.

According to the DOH, risk factors associated with colon cancer include a history of ulcerative colitis and obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol, and certain genetic conditions. Although not every factor can be easily lessened, the DOH says eating healthy and regular physical activity can reduce cancer risk. The Department further advises those who smoke that “the best time to quit is now.”

In addition to prevention, department officials say increasing awareness and screening among adults under 50 is critical.


“Screening can detect cancers when they are most treatable and can even prevent colon cancers from occurring by removing precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer,” the DOH reports.

The Department of Health’s Get Screened Hawaiʻi campaign promotes colon cancer screenings for everyone between the ages of 45 and 75.

The DOH offers the following action tips:

  • If you notice symptoms, see a healthcare provider right away.
  • If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to a healthcare provider about the appropriate time to get screened.
  • If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call Aloha United Way at 211.
Colon cancer screening. VC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More information on colon cancer screening is available at


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