Colorectal Cancer on the Rise in Young Adults – What You Need to Know
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society's Colorectal Cancer Statistics 2023 report. The report also shows a troubling uptick of colorectal cancer among adults younger than 55 years old, leading to more advanced-stage diagnoses.
The report found that the proportion of new diagnoses in patients younger than 55 increased from 11% to 20%. Annually, there was a 2% increase in new cases of CRC among people aged under 50 and those aged between 50-54. A decrease in cases was seen in those aged 65 and over, beginning in 2011. In addition, more advanced disease is being diagnosed, with the proportion of individuals of all ages presenting with advanced-stage CRC increasing from 52% in the mid-2000s to 60% in 2019.
Certain regions of the United States appeared to have higher rates of colorectal cancers and deaths than others. Data showed that rates of the lowest in the West and highest in Appalachia and regions of the South and Midwest. In Utah, the occurrence of colorectal cancer was 27 cases per 100,000 people, while in Mississippi it was 46.5 cases per 100,000. In Mississippi, the death rate due to colorectal cancer was 17.6 per 100,000 people, while in Connecticut it was approximately 10 per 100,000. Colorectal cancer incidence and death rates are higher among Alaska Native, American Indian and Black people than other groups, and men experience higher rates of the disease than women.
From a peak of 66.2 per 100,000 individuals in 1985, the annual rate of colon cancer has decreased by 46%, amounting to 35.7 per 100,000 people in 2019. The report noted that death rates have decreased by 57 percent in the last 50 years. Experts say the decrease in colorectal cancer cases is largely because of a drop in smoking and the wide adoption of screening for colorectal cancer in Americans age 50 or older, including colonoscopies.
Actor Chadwick Boseman's death from colon cancer in 2020 at the age of 43 drew more attention to the trend of increasing colorectal cancer incidence in younger people. The American Cancer Society has since recommended lowering the age for colorectal cancer screening to 45 and is urging people to know their risks and to get screened.
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