What is the prevalence of colorectal cancer (CRC)?

Updated: Jun 06, 2020
  • Author: Jaime Shalkow, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Cameron K Tebbi, MD  more...
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In the general population, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal carcinoma is 5-6%. However, CRC is quite rare in children and adolescents, with a reported annual incidence of only one per million persons younger than 20 years in the United States. Only 1% of total CRC cases occur in patients younger than 30 years. [43]

Primary pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies represent fewer than 5% of all pediatric neoplasms. [43]  Unfortunately, advanced stage at diagnosis, aggressive histology, and poor survival are the hallmarks of pediatric CRC. In fact, 80-90% of patients younger than 20 years present with Duke stage C/D or TNM stage III/IV. [44]

The incidence of CRC rises exponentially with increasing age from 15 to 40 years and affects both genders similarly. However, in children, the incidence of CRC is higher in males.

Although CRC rates in older adults have been dropping since 1976, the opposite trend has been observed in adolescents and young adults, in whom rates have been disproportionately higher; 18% of cases are diagnosed in persons younger than 50 years. The incidence of distal tumors has increased the most, with rectal cancer representing 44% of CRC cases in patients younger than 30 years. [1]

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