Why Is Colorectal Cancer Increasing in Younger Patients?

March 10, 2017

Colorectal cancer (CRC) has long been considered an older person's disease. But a new American Cancer Society (ACS) report challenges that notion with findings that point to a dramatic rise in CRC among younger individuals.

Three in 10 CRC diagnoses now occur among people younger than 55 years, the report found, and rates among young and middle-aged adults have returned to what they were for people born around 1890. Someone born in 1990 now has double the risk for colon cancer and quadruple the risk for rectal cancer compared with someone born around 1950, lead author, Rebecca Siegel, MPH, from the ACS in Atlanta, Georgia, told Medscape Medical News in a recent interview.

Most experts don't advise CRC screening for average-risk individuals until age 50, so diagnosis of younger adults is often not on clinicians' radar. The report didn't explore the reason for the sharp increase of the condition in people under 50, but the authors speculate that it might be related to obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of access to healthcare, which is often associated with later diagnosis and worse prognosis.


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