Gains made against colon cancer, but it’s hitting more people under 50

Overall rates of colorectal cancer have been dropping for years. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the disease is on the rise among young people.

The study behind the findings was presented May 22 at Digestive Disease Week 2016 in San Diego.

Lead-authored by Elie Sutton, MD, of Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City, the study report shows young-onset cases increasing by 1.28 percent per year over a 10-year period ending in 2013, according to a press release from the conference.

That’s a troubling bump of 11.4 percent in people under 50 over the period.

At the same time, Sutton and colleagues documented colorectal cancer falling 2.5 percent in patients 50 or older.

Looking at more than 1 million cases in the National Cancer Database, the team also found a higher incidence of more advanced cancer in the younger group than the older (stage 3: 30.6 percent vs. 25.1 percent; stage 4: 25.6 percent vs. 18.2 percent).

They further found that young-onset cases were more prevalent than late-onset cases in nonwhite patients (22.1 percent vs. 16.0 percent).

“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,” Sutton said.

“Not only did we find that the rate of colorectal cancer in this group is rising,” he added, “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, which is very concerning.”

Sutton noted that, by far, most cases of colorectal cancer still strike after people turn 50.

Citing National Cancer Institute statistics, Digestive Disease Week points out that colorectal cancer is the third-most-common cancer, with more than 132,000 new cases in 2015 and with more deaths that year than any other cancer except that of the lung.