According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, not including skin cancers. Now new research published in the journal Cancer shows that more young people are being diagnosed with the disease than ever before.
"Several studies have shown that the rates of colorectal cancer in younger adults have risen slowly in the U.S. since the 1970s," says senior author Dr. Boone Goodgame. "[B]ut, for practicing physicians, it feels like we are seeing more and more young people with colorectal cancer now than we were even 10 years ago.”
Goodgame is an assistant professor in the departments of internal medicine and oncology at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his team analyzed National Cancer Database data and determined that even within the last several years, younger patients are receiving diagnoses of the disease. In 2004, 10% of colorectal cancer diagnoses in the U.S. were in people under the age of 50. That percentage had jumped to 12.2% in 2015.
In addition to this finding, the researchers also discovered that younger patients were receiving diagnoses of advanced colorectal cancer; again, in 51.6% of those patients under 50 and only 40% of those over 50.
Although death rates from colorectal cancer have been on the decline for women and men in the US, the ACS estimates that in 2019 alone, 145,600 people in the U.S. will receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis, and 51,020 will die of the disease.
According to Dr. Goodgame, a recent change in guidelines for earlier colorectal cancer screening could account for the uptick in diagnoses and fall in deaths, it is unclear what’s behind the increase in colorectal cancer rates among younger adults in the U.S.