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Knowledge Saves Lives

Colorectal cancer has become a reality for many people younger than age 50, and it’s the only population with a rising incidence rate.

By 2030, researchers predict that colorectal cancer will be the leading cause of cancer deaths in people ages 20-49.

Researchers have not concluded why young-onset colorectal cancer is on the rise, but the Alliance is funding research to help find out. 


In the U.S., approximately 10% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in individuals under age 50.


New guidelines from the United States Preventive Services Task Force state that all average-risk people aged 45 and above should begin screening for colorectal cancer.


Young-onset rectal cancer incidence has increased at nearly twice the rate of young-onset colon cancer.

Additional Data

  • Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are increasing in the young-onset population while decreasing in those over 50.
  • Young-onset colon cancer has a preference for the distal colon (the segment of your colon right before the rectum begins) or rectum and often presents at a later stage.
  • Screening is recommended to start earlier than age 45 in those with a family history of colorectal cancer or advanced adenomas (noncancerous tumors), and in those with hereditary genetic syndromes associated with increased risk. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease or other conditions increasing risk may also benefit from close follow-up.
  • Individuals under 45 who have symptoms that may be consistent with colorectal cancer need to seek medical attention so the appropriate testing can be done and deserve a prompt and thorough examination. 
  • Physician-related delays (e.g., missed symptoms, initial misdiagnosis) have been estimated to occur in 15-50% of young-onset colorectal cancer cases.*
  • Discussions of lowering the screening age for the average-risk population have begun. As it stands, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) feels there is insufficient evidence for lowering the screening age to 40 years in the average-risk population.

*Source: National Cancer Institute State Cancer Profile

Advocate for Yourself

Younger patients diagnosed between the ages of 19-39 were more likely to report that their concerns were dismissed by their doctors than patients who were diagnosed between the ages of 40-50, according to the Alliance's Never Too Young Survey Report. And women were more likely to report that they felt their symptoms and concerns were dismissed by their doctor.

If you feel like your provider is not taking you seriously about signs or symptoms, advocate for yourself and, if needed, seek a second opinion.

For assistance, call the Alliance's Helpline at (877) 422-2030.

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