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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Young adults with colon cancer are just as likely to die from the disease as older people — in some cases, maybe even more likely — according to a study to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Why it matters: Colorectal cancer is among the fastest-growing cancers among people younger than 50, and researchers aren't sure why.

What they're saying: "It struck us that these patients were younger, they had fewer comorbidities, they had better performance status and were more physically active and they less side effects from the treatment," said Kimmie Ng, director of the Dana-Farber's Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center.

  • "But their survival was exactly the same," she said.

Between the lines: While her study group had too few patients younger than 35 to have a statistically significant result, Ng said the team observed a "particularly concerning" trend of lower survival rates in that population.

The big picture: In May, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age Americans should start getting screened for colon cancer, from age 50 to age 45.

  • The task force said the recommendation reflected the fact that colon cancer — the third-leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S. — is increasingly occurring among adults younger than 50.

What's next: It's still unknown whether cancers that happen in younger people are biologically different than cancers that happen in older people.

  • "We need to better understand what it is that is different about the very youngest patients," Ng said.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that in some cases young adults with colon cancer can be more likely (not less likely) to die from the disease.

Go deeper

Rep. Sewell: Expanding health coverage could be key to early cancer detection

Axios' Caitlin Owens and Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) speaking at an Axios event on Wednesday.

Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) told Axios during an event Wednesday she hopes the extended premium tax credits from President Biden's social spending bill will be key to detecting cancers earlier, if the legislation passes.

Why it matters: Sewell said some 300,000 people in her home state of Alabama fall into the "Medicaid gap" — meaning they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford their own insurance.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she remains cancer-free

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Wednesday that her first six-month post-cancer exam showed that "everything was clear."

The big picture: Klobuchar revealed in September that she had been diagnosed with stage 1A breast cancer in February. She completed radiation treatment in May and "it was determined in August that the treatment went well."

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.