In a new study, researchers found that the incidence of colon cancer in adults younger than 50 years of age has increased in the United States since 1970.
They found that the proportion of adults diagnosed with colon cancer under age 50 in the U.S. has continued to increase over the past decade, and younger adults are diagnosed with more advanced disease.
The research was conducted by a team from The University of Texas at Austin.
In the study, the team examined the information from the National Cancer Database registry, which includes more than 70 percent of new cancer cases in the United States.
From 2004 to 2015, 130,165 patients under age 50 and 1,055,598 patients over age 50 were diagnosed with colon cancer.
The team found that the proportion of patients diagnosed with colon cancer under the age of 50 rose from 10% in 2004 to 12.2% in 2015.
About 52% of younger adults were diagnosed with more advanced stages of cancer (stage III/IV) versus 40% in those older than 50 years.
Rates of colon cancer diagnosis in young adults increased over time regardless of income level. The highest proportion of young adult diagnoses occurred in the top income category.
Finally, the proportion of colorectal cancers diagnosed in younger individuals rose in urban areas, but not in rural areas.
The team says more and more young adults under 50 have colon cancer now, and many guidelines do recommend screening at age 45.
The American Cancer Society’s guideline for colon cancer screening recommends that average-risk adults aged 45 years and older undergo regular screening, either with colonoscopy or with alternatives such as fecal immunochemical tests and fecal occult blood tests.
The cause of increasing rates of colorectal cancer in younger patients is unclear, but it may be a combination of increases in body weight and changes in gut bacteria.
The lead author of the study is Boone Goodgame, MD. from The University of Texas at Austin.
The study is published in CANCER.
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