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Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer and was just 43. What’s the risk for young people? – USA TODAY

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Chadwick Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016, according to a family statement.

USA TODAY

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.

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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.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, colon cancer diagnoses were declining in age groups younger than age 50 years and increasing in those age 50 years and older, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

But that trend flipped in the mid-1980s, when rates declined in adults age 55 years and older, while increasing by 2.4% per year in adults age 20-29 years and by 1% per year in adults age 30-39 years, the study found.

Rectal cancer rates saw an even more extreme version of this trend.

“If you were born in 1990 or afterward, you were two times more likely to get colon cancer or four times more likely to get rectal cancer than those born before 1990,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “It is, unfortunately, becoming a bigger and bigger epidemic.”

Sapienza, whose mother died of colon cancer at age 56, said oncologists are seeing more late-stage diagnoses of colorectal cancers, which are often mistaken for other illnesses.

“What’s happening is, young people are going into the doctor having symptoms, and it’s usually taking them to see three or four doctors until they’re getting a diagnosis,” he said. “Especially now, in the telemedicine world, people are going to be afraid to recommend a colonoscopy. If you’re having rectal bleeding, night sweats, cramping – especially dark blood – you really to emphasize that with your physician.”

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Baltimore Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini was diagnosed in March, days before his 28th birthday. He was at spring training when a pair of blood tests revealed low iron levels. What he initially thought may have been a stomach ulcer or celiac disease turned out to be stage III colon cancer. Manci had a malignant tumor removed a week later and began chemotherapy in April.

“If you’re young like me, you don’t think you’re getting colon cancer,” Manci told USA TODAY. His father was diagnosed with stage II cancer at 58. “I was shocked.”

Oncologists don’t yet know what’s causing the rising number of cases among young people, but there are several theories.

“We really can’t hone in on one cause,” Azad said. “There could be diet changes, obesity, increasing prevalence of diabetes. All of these things are also associated with colorectal cancer.”

High consumption of processed meat and alcohol, low levels of physical activity and fiber consumption, and cigarette smoking are also known risk factors, researchers said.

“It is not surprising that the timing of the obesity epidemic parallels the rise in colorectal cancer because many behaviors thought to drive weight gain, such as unhealthy dietary patterns and sedentary lifestyles, independently increase colorectal cancer risk,” researchers said in the 2017 study.

Black Americans disproportionately affected

Overall, colorectal cancer disproportionately affects Black Americans. The cancer incidence is about 20% higher in Black men and women compared to their Caucasian counterparts, and Black patients are about 40% more likely to die of colorectal cancer, said Rebecca Siegel, a cancer epidemiologist and scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.

“The mortality difference is what’s striking,” Siegel said. “It’s also the elephant in the room of systemic racism that has been going on for decades and affects everyone in the Black community, regardless of their wealth status.”

Among young people, the difference in the rate of cases between Black and white Americans narrows, Siegel said. White Americans under 50 account for a large portion of the increase in cases in the younger age group, she said.

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When should people get a colonoscopy? 

To combat the rising prevalence of colorectal cancer among young people, researchers suggest educating clinicians and the public about symptoms and screenings, and expanding health care access to young people, who are less likely to have access to a primary care physician and more likely to declare bankruptcy from their cancer treatments, Siegel said.

Researchers also suggest developing new strategies to curb the obesity epidemic and shift Americans toward healthier eating and more active lifestyles.

It’s also important to end the stigma around colorectal cancer, experts say.

“A very common symptom is bleeding in the stool, and that’s embarrassing. Young people are not accustomed to talking about these symptoms with their friends,” Siegel said.

Reducing the stigma and increasing awareness both of the symptoms and the increasing risk in young people directly translates to saving lives, she said.

“It might be tough for some people to talk about their colon and bowel movements, but it’s the third most common cancer and we need to talk about it more,” Manci said.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines to recommend that people at average risk for colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45, or at 40 for people with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, a history of inflammatory bowel disease and more.

“Everybody’s always told that you don’t need colonoscopies until you’re 50 years old, and that’s clearly not the case,” Manci said. “In hindsight, I wish I would have gotten screened at 25 or so.”

More groups are planning to revisit their guidelines in the next year or two, Azad said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see screenings moving earlier across other guideline committees as well,” Azad said. “This is a very treatable cancer, and it’s a fully preventable cancer if people get their screening.”

People ‘afraid to go to doctors’: A third of Americans miss cancer screenings, survey suggests

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Boseman Chadwick

Chadwick Boseman, “Black Panther” star, has died at 43 – CBS News

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman dies


“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman dies

03:23

Chadwick Boseman, known for his role as King T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” has died after a four-year battle with cancer, according to a post on his Twitter account. The post said the actor, who also played Black icons such as James Brown, Thurgood Marshall and Jackie Robinson, died at home with his wife and family. 

Boseman was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2016, and it progressed to stage four, the post said. He was 43 years old, according to The Associated Press. 

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy,” the post said. 

The post added that it was “the honor of his career” to play King T’Challa in “Black Panther.” In August 2019, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler announced that “Black Panther 2” would be released in May 2022. 

Boseman had not publicly disclosed his battle with cancer, according to the Associated Press

Boseman was born in South Carolina and graduated from Howard University, the AP said. He starred in various television shows in the early 2000s before getting the star role as Jackie Robinson, the first Black person to play in Major League Baseball, in the 2013 film “42,” according to IMDB. 

From there, he went on to star as James Brown in the 2014 film “Get On Up,” Andre Davis in the 2019 film “21 Bridges,” and Stormin’ Norman in this year’s “Da 5 Bloods.” 

His death came on the day Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, usually celebrated on April 15. 

Major League Baseball tweeted that “his transcendent performance in ’42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come.”

Fans and colleagues shared messages of grief online. 

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay posted a photo of the Wakanda ancestral plane from “Black Panther,” telling Boseman, “May you have a beautiful return, King. We will miss you so.” 

May you have a beautiful return, King. We will miss you so. pic.twitter.com/jdip3RHoXb

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) August 29, 2020

Marvel Studios tweeted a photo of Boseman dressed in the costume of his iconic role, writing, “our hearts are broken. … Your legacy will live on forever.” 

The company also tweeted out a series of photos of Boseman from Marvel sets and with his fellow cast members. 

MEMORIES..

Chadwick Boseman 💔 pic.twitter.com/1p0aGOgAzR

— Marvel Universe (@77MCU) August 29, 2020

Chris Evans, who starred in Marvel’s “Avengers” movies alongside Boseman, tweeted that he is “absolutely devastated” and that Boseman’s death is “beyond heartbreaking.” 

“Chadwick was special. A true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create,” Evans said. “I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship.”

I’m absolutely devastated. This is beyond heartbreaking.

Chadwick was special. A true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create. I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship. Rest in power, King💙 pic.twitter.com/oBERXlw66Z

— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) August 29, 2020

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted a photo of her and Boseman, saying she is “heartbroken.” Boseman’s last tweet before his death was a photo of himself and Harris, encouraging people to vote. 

“My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble,” she wrote. “He left too early but his life made a difference.” 

She also attended Howard University, whose mascot is the bison. 

Heartbroken. My friend and fellow Bison Chadwick Boseman was brilliant, kind, learned, and humble. He left too early but his life made a difference. Sending my sincere condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/C5xGkUi9oZ

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 29, 2020

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