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Last month, we traveled to Chicago to attend the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Annual Meeting. This is where the top up-and-coming cancer research from the year is presented to more than 25,000 experts, advocates, doctors, researchers and scientists from around the world.

As the co-founder of the Never Too Young coalition and an organization that is currently investing in under 50 research, it was exciting to see young-onset colorectal cancer being recognized by the research community. The study results, however, were less than comforting.

Stephanie Guiffre, our Never Too Young Coalition Director and one of the founders of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, pulled together the top findings presented this year.

You know it. We know it. And, finally, so do the top experts and doctors.

The upward trend is real and on the rise.

We’ve been beating this drum for the past three years, ever since our breakthrough Under 50 Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. At that time, discussion or research around this topic was nearly non-existent.

A lot has changed in these last few years. Within the past year, we’ve seen study after study confirm the upward trend in diagnoses for those under 50. At ASCO, new data suggested that patients younger than 50 years of age comprise 4.6 percent of the total incidence of colorectal cancer. But that’s not all—this number, according to recent data, is expected to double in the next 10 years.

“Genetics” and “hereditary” are the new buzzwords.

It’s now generally known that the fastest growing population for colon cancer is those under age 50, and this number is only expected to increase at an alarming rate. This is something we’ve known—thanks to you, our outspoken survivors and advocates—and the new question we’re asking is WHY and what we can do to change this.

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to young-onset, researchers have started to look at the genetic level. ASCO researchers presented a number of interesting facts from the genetic arena, including:

  • Only 5-7 percent of young-onset cancers are attributable to known hereditary factors.

This number feels low to us, but the keyword in this statement is “known.” There’s a lot we still don’t know, and we expect this number to increase as research and our understanding on this disease continues to expand.

  • Colorectal cancer is genetically different in older and younger patients.

The implications from this could be huge, from everything to treatment dosages and combinations to new treatment options. We’ll be keeping our eye on more studies related to this.

The Same… But Different

Speaking of differences, it turns out there are a lot of differences between colon cancer in the younger and older populations. Studies from ASCO showed:

  • Colorectal cancer tends to be more aggressive in younger than older patients
  • Younger patient tumor samples metabolized drugs differently than the older patients, including chemotherapies
  • Along those same lines, traditional chemotherapy treatments may be less effective for younger patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (as many traditional chemotherapies are designed for an older population)
  • Severity of colorectal cancer is greater in younger patients

Want more information on the latest treatment and research updates? The Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer treatment or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.


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