Colorectal Cancer on the Rise Among Younger Patients

The rate of colorectal cancer is increasing in patients younger than 50-years-old.

In a recent study, researchers discovered the rate of colorectal cancer (CRC) is increasing in patients under 50-years-old, although the overall rate of the disease is decreasing.

Included in the study presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) 2016, were just over 1 million CRC patient records from 2004 to 2013.

"While the healthcare system has done a great deal to address colorectal cancer in people over 50 -- heightening patient awareness and increasing screenings -- our findings show that much more needs to be done to fight this cancer in people under 50, a group not normally considered at risk," said study lead author Elie Sutton, MD. "Not only did we find that the rate of colorectal cancer in this group is rising, we also saw that within the group that was diagnosed at a younger age, a higher percentage were diagnosed at later the stages of cancer (stage 3 or 4), which is very concerning."

Over more than a decade, researchers found an 11.4% increase in the amount of young-onset cases of CRC, which is approximately 136 new cases per year. Researchers also found a 2.5% decrease in the amount of late-onset patients, defined as 50 years or older.

The younger patients also had higher incidence of more advanced cancer compared with older patients, according to the study. For example, 25.6% of young-onset patients had stage 4 cancer compared with 18.2% of late-onset patients.

Researchers also found that young-onset CRC was more prevalent in non-white patients compared with late-onset patients. Variables such as the stage the cancer was found, the length of in-patient hospital stay, demographic, and mortality rates at 30 and 90 days were analyzed, the researchers wrote.

Though the findings show a rise in CRC among patients under 50 years, a majority of CRC patients are over 50-years-old.

"Between the time of the previous research and our study, we still have not adequately addressed the risk of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50,” Dr. Sutton concluded. “It's critical that we reverse this trend so that we are able to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, it in all populations, regardless of age."