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Howard Community Reacts to the Rising Numbers of Colon Cancer Among Youth

With colon cancer cases increasingly impacting young people, how are Black young adults in particular responding to this growing epidemic with both their race and age being a factor?

The blue ribbon serves as a beacon of awareness for colon cancer, symbolizing the critical importance of education and advocacy in combating this disease. (Photo courtesy of User:Amousey)

Colon cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths around the world. The illness is expected to impact about 100,000 people annually, according to the American Cancer Association.

While senior citizens are often at higher risk of colon cancer, doctors and patients nationwide are recognizing a concerning trend: the disease is increasingly affecting an unexpected demographic.

According to NBC, diagnoses of colon cancer among young people have reached unprecedented levels, with nearly 300,000 Americans under the age of 55 being diagnosed as of 2019. The American Cancer Association expects approximately 100,000 colon cancer cases to emerge this year alone.

As highlighted by the American Cancer Association, the risk of colon cancer among American Americans has sparked concern within the Black community, particularly among those well-versed in the medical field.

“I believe it’s more prevalent because it’s touching many people that look like me [and] also having notable diagnoses from Chadwick Boseman and other actresses and entertainers have concerned me,” Howard University alumna Dr. KaNisha L. Hall said.

The recent surge in diagnoses has promoted reflection across racial lines, prompting Americans to contemplate the underlying causes and necessary preventative measures. Yet, the factors contributing to this increase seem multifaceted and complex. 

Yale Medicine points to common unhealthy behaviors such as obesity, smoking and high intake of processed foods have sparked this trend. Along with reports from Yale Medicine and the American Cancer Association, members of the Howard community also believe such theories are possible reasons for higher rates of colon cancer. 

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“I definitely believe it has a lot to do with smoking and alcohol usage. Additionally, a lot of us are not exercising,”  Taylor Ford, a junior nursing major from Detroit, Michigan, said.

Maxwell McGadney, a senior sports medicine major and chemistry minor, from Illinois, also shared thoughts about colon cancer being caused or related to human dietary consumption.

“More people are becoming aware of the types of diseases we are predisposed to and are deciding to get tested at a higher rate. I believe higher rates of colon cancer are due to an increased exposure to processed foods and things like red-40, nonstick pans, trans fat, plastics, etc., ” McGadney said.

As discussions continue within the Howard community regarding the concerning rise of colon cancer among Black individuals, there’s a growing interest in measures to safeguard health. 

Ann Laurie Pierre, a junior from Boston, Massachusetts, majoring in biology and triple minoring in chemistry, French and African American studies, emphasizes the importance of regular testing and mindful dietary choices.

 “As Black youth, we will have to get tested often and watch what we put into our bodies, even with the limited resources we have,” Pierre said. 

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In addition to regular medical visits, community members advocate for daily lifestyle improvements to mitigate the risk of colon cancer.

“There are things that we can do and avoid to put the odds in our favor. A healthy diet, regular exercise, regular sunlight exposure and limiting processed foods and certain chemicals just to name a few,” McGadney said. 

While definitive causes of colon cancer are yet to be discovered, advocates within the healthcare sector are urging all those affected to prioritize their well-being.

“I always encourage my young patients to advocate for themselves. I’m a well-educated healthcare professional, but I do not know your body better than you do,” Hall said. 

In an effort to empower both patients seeking quality healthcare and professionals delivering vital information, Hall encouraged young people to take a proactive role in their health journey. 

“Seek care when your body is trying to tell you something. Never ignore your body in pain or discomfort [and] listen to your body when it’s telling you something,” Hall said. 

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Copy edited by D’ara Campbell

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