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Last month, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA Surgery) published a new article on the incidences of colon and rectal cancer, focusing on age groups and predictions for the future. We sat down with Patient Advocate Medical Consultant Dr. Laura Porter to get her take on the new study.

The authors analyzed nearly 400,000 individuals diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer between 1975-2010 and based their predictions on these trends. They divided the group into four different age groups:

  • 20-34
  • 35-49
  • 50-74
  • 75+
[caption id="attachment_2431" align="alignright" width="239"]Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor and Colon Cancer Alliance Patient Advocate Medical Consultant. Dr. Laura Porter, MD, stage IV colon cancer survivor and Colon Cancer Alliance Patient Advocate Medical Consultant.[/caption]

They examined the following factors:

  • Age
  • Colon vs. rectal cancer
  • Stage at diagnosis

Overall, the incidence of colorectal cancer has decreased in men 3.0% per year and 2.4% in women from 1998-2006.This trend is attributed to increased screening in those 50 and older. Unfortunately, during this same period, the incidence of colorectal cancer has increased in adults under the age of 50 and these patients usually present with advanced disease.

This is something we’ve been keeping close tabs on through our Never Too Young campaign, but the projected numbers from the study were particularly alarming:

  • By 2020, the incidence of both colon cancer and rectal cancers in people over 50 will decrease by 23.2% and 41.1% in 2030
  • By 2020 the incidence of colon  cancer in people over 34-49  will increase  by 13%  and increase 27.2% by 2030 the incidence of rectal cancer in this same group will increase by 21% in 2020 and 46% in 2030.
  • By 2020 the incidence of colon cancer in 20-34 year olds will increase by 37.8% and by 90% in 2030.  The incidence of rectal cancer in this same age group will increase by 49.7% in 2020 and by a whopping 124.4% in 2030.

If these trends continue, the numbers will be astounding. By 2030, 10.9% of all colon cancers and 22.9% of rectal cancers will be diagnosed in patients younger than 50, the recommended screening age. By comparison, in 2010, 4.8% of colon cancers and 9.5% of rectal cancers were diagnosed in patients under the age of 50.

What can you do? Research is needed to determine the cause of these trends. Through our Blue Hope Research Award and Never Too Young initiative, we’re continuing to stay on top of these trends and are investing in research to better understand young-onset colorectal cancer.

Don’t forget, the Colon Cancer Alliance serves as a source of information about colon health. If you have additional questions about colon cancer screening or are in need of support, please contact our free Helpline at (877) 422-2030. We’re here to help.


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