In a recent study entitled “Increasing Disparities in the Age-Related Incidences of Colon and Rectal Cancers in the United States, 1975-2010” published in JAMA Surgery, the authors report that while the incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) has been decreasing in older patients, there is a significant increase of CRC incidence in young adults.
In this study, the team of researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center evaluated age-related disparities in secular trends in CRC incidence in the United States. For this, the authors analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) CRC registry for patients diagnosed with CRC between 1975 to 2010. In total, 393,241 patients were analyzed and the authors used the data to determine patients’ annual cancer incidence rates and annual percentage change.
They found that while a steady decrease has been observed in patients 50 years or older, on the contrary, an increase of CRC incidence was observed in young patients. Specifically, for those aged between 20 to 34 years old and those 35 to 49 years old, an increase was observed for localized, regional, and distant colon and rectal cancers. Based on the new findings, patients between the ages of 20 to 34 years old will have a 90.0% and 124.2% increased incidence of colon and rectal cancers by 2030, respectively, while patients aged between 35 to 49 years will see an increase of 27.7% and 46.0%.
The authors attribute these numbers to lifestyle choices such as lack of physical activity and a Western diet, as well as obesity. However, conclusions on risk factors have still yet to be determined.
George J. Chang, MD, MS, associate professor, Departments of Surgical Oncology and Health Services Research and study leading author, noted, “This is an important moment in cancer prevention. We’re observing the potential real impact of CRC among young people if no changes are made in public education and prevention efforts. This is the moment to reverse this alarming trend. While our study observations are limited to CRC, similar concerns are being raised about breast cancer, as we see incidence increasing among younger women. Identifying these patterns is a crucial first step toward initiating important shifts in cancer prevention.”