Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer and was just 43. What’s the risk for young people?
Actor Chadwick Boseman, 43, died Friday from colon cancer – a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and one that is increasingly affecting young Americans. While deaths from colon and rectal cancers have been declining for several decades due to improved screening and treatment measures, deaths among young people have been increasing slightly in recent years, according to researchers.
“We are seeing more people in their 30s and 40s who are developing colorectal cancers – often because they’re having symptoms that aren’t thought to be cancers,” said Dr. Nilofer Azad, an associate professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
About 30% of colorectal cancer diagnosed today is in people under the age of 55, she said. Symptoms of colorectal cancer include a change in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, blood in stool, abdominal pain and more. Boseman, who made a global impact bringing “Black Panther” to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe along with playing Black icons on the silver screen, was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016 and battled with it as it progressed to stage IV, his family said in a statement Friday.
Colorectal cancer – which includes colon and rectal cancer – is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2020 – including 3,640 deaths in people younger than 50 years. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women, the American Cancer Society says. This year, more than 100,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 40,000 with rectal cancer, including 18,000 colorectal cancer cases in people younger than 50, the group estimates.
More young people are being affected
For younger people, those numbers are rising. Deaths from colorectal cancer among people younger than age 55 have increased 1% per year from 2008 and 2017, according to the American Cancer Society.
In 2017, about 130 people in their 20s died from colorectal cancer, 720 in their 30s and 2,700 in their 40s, with older age groups accounting for higher and higher death tolls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.