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Drastic Increase in Colorectal Cancers Among Those Under 50

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The rates of colon and rectal cancers have increased dramatically among individuals between 20 -49 years of age. These results were recently published in JAMA Surgery.

Due to medical guidelines stipulating screening for colorectal cancer for all individuals 50 years or older, or screening for individuals younger than 50 who are an increased risk for the disease, the incidence of colorectal cancer has actually decreased since 1998 in this age group.

However, it appears now that individuals 20-49 years old are experiencing a significant increase in the incidence of the disease. Specifically, young adults between 20-34 years old have seen a soaring increase in the incidence of rectal cancers.

Researchers recently evaluated data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) colorectal cancer (CRC) registry. Data was obtained from patients starting at 20 years of age, from 1975-2010. Nearly 400,000 patient records were evaluated in the study.

Overall, the incidence of colorectal cancer has decreased between 1975-2010 by 0.92%.
Among patients age 50 years or older, there has been a steady decline in colorectal cancer incidence.
Among patients age 20-34 years, the incidence of colorectal cancer has increased.
Among patients 35-49 years, the incidence of rectal cancer has increased.
Based on the trending data, in 2030, the incidence rates for colon cancers will increase by 90.0% and by 124.2% for rectal cancers among patients 20-34 years of age.
Additionally by 2030, the incidence rates for patients aged 35-49 years of age will increase 27.7% for colon cancer and 46% for rectal cancer.
The authors concluded that “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of CRC diagnosed in young adults, with a decline in older patients. Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies.”

Individuals at a high risk for developing colorectal cancer should speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits for screening.

Reference: Bailey C, Hu C-H, You N, et al. Increasing disparities in the age-related incidences of colon and rectal cancers in the United States, 1975-2010. JAMA Surgery. Published online November 05, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.175