Yes, there IS a such thing as childhood colon cancer even though the average population is urged to begin colon cancer screening at 50.
How young can a child be, however, when it comes to a diagnosis of colon cancer?
Pediatric colon cancer happens, but it’s extremely rare. The National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) says that one-tenth of a percent of cases occur in patients under age 20.
But this doesn’t answer the question: What’s the youngest a child can be with colon cancer?
A child as young as four can get this disease, according to a study in the journal Cancer (Sultan et al, 2009).
Colon cancer in children is so rare that this study was able to track down only 159 cases from the SEER database spanning 1973 to 2005 for patients age four to 20.
Incidence of Childhood Colon Cancer
The Cancer paper’s authors note that the Italian TREPproject on rare pediatric tumors estimates a colon cancer rate of 0.09 per million for kids 10 to 14; and 0.72/million for kids 15 to 17.
The TREPproject has no “per million” data on colon cancer in children under age 10, but has a registration of six cases under 10 between 2000 and 2006.
To look at this more broadly, it’s one case in 10 million under age 20, says a report from the Children’s National Medical Center.
Most Common Presenting Symptoms
The Journal of Clinical Oncology (Adibe et al) reports abdominal pain and discomfort, followed by a change in bowel habits.
What should parents do?
Nothing unless your child is showing symptoms such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, blood in the stools, nausea, unexplained weight loss, an overall sick feeling, lump in the abdomen and loss of appetite.
Colon cancer in children will not always present with every one of these symptoms (which have so many more likely causes).
On average, symptoms are noticed three to four months before diagnosis.
If your child has any of these symptoms, don’t delay a medical visit, but don’t lose sleep, either.
Colon cancer in children is so rare that there’s no data verifying what the youngest a child can be who gets this disease.
• Worry more about childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are epidemic in the U.S.
• Mandate daily physical activity and limit TV viewing time.
• Make sure your child is buckled up when inside a motor vehicle—whether they like it or not.
But do not panic over your young child getting colon cancer. It is just too rare to become anxious about.