How can gastroenterologists respond to changing trends in colorectal cancer?

Dr. Willliam KatkovA recent study found that colorectal cancer is on the rise in patients below the age of 50. William Katkov, MD, a gastroenterologist with Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., explains how gastroenterologists can respond to this trend and raise awareness.

Question: How can gastroenterologists improve awareness of this trend in younger patients?

Dr. William Katkov: Gastroenterologists must play a central role in raising awareness of the increasing rates of colon cancer in younger people. Non-invasive screening tools, such as fecal occult blood testing, must be implemented in patients beginning in their 20s. In addition, the word needs to be spread to primary caregivers including internists, family practitioners and gynecologists.

Q:  How do you think this trend will affect the demand for colonoscopy?

WK: There will undoubtedly be an increased demand for colonoscopy as a result of this trend. While the standard average-risk age for screening colonoscopy will not change in the near future, intensified efforts to identify younger at-risk individuals will lead to more procedures.

Q: What can be done to determine the underlying cause of this trend?

WK: High-quality clinical research is required to ascertain the cause of this trend. There is a suggestion that environmental and behavioral causes are at the root of this epidemiologic change. Well-designed studies will be needed to elucidate the relevant factors.

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