University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers have published their latest results “Increasing Disparities in the Age-Related Incidences of Colon and Rectal Cancers in the United States, 1975-2010” in the JAMA Surgery journal, whereby they state that within the next 15 years, patients younger than the traditional screening age will account for more than 1 in every 10 colon cancer and 1 in every 4 rectal cancer cases.
By 2030, the incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) among 20- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. is predicted to increase by 90% and 124.2%, respectively.
The causes thought to underlie such statistics include lifestyle and behavioural factors, such as obesity, lack of physical activity and a Western diet.
“This is an important moment in cancer prevention,” principal investigator George J. Chang, MD, MS, associate professor, Departments of Surgical Oncology and Health Services Research, said in an MD Anderson press release. “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.”
The research team designed a retrospective cohort study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) CRC registry, with data collected between 1975 and 2010, and analyzed age at diagnosis in 15-year intervals starting at the age of 20 years. By the means of statistical analysis, researchers obtained annual cancer incidence rates, annual percentage change, and the significance of these particular trends.
The results showed that over time, there has been a decline in CRC incidence in patients older than 50 years, however the opposite is true for young adults aged 20 to 34 years, with localized, regional, and distant colon and rectal cancer incidences increasing.
A 90.0% and 124.2% increase is expected by 2030 for colon and rectal cancers, respectively, in patients aged 20 to 34 years, and by 27.7% and 46.0% for patients aged 35 to 49 years.
“While our study observations are limited to CRC, similar concerns are being raised about breast cancer, as we see incidence increasing among younger women,” Dr. Chang explained. “Identifying these patterns is a crucial first step toward initiating important shifts in cancer prevention.”
The authors note that physicians should be aware of possible symptoms in younger people, since these could provide a precious opportunity to diagnose the disease at an early stage, before it has progressed.