(CNN) – Cases of colorectal cancer in young adults are on the rise – and the median age of diagnosed patients is declining.
Colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer in men and women in the United States – after the lungs and prostate in men and the lungs and breasts in women.
Actor Chadwick Boseman died Friday at the age of 43 of colon cancer after battling the disease for years. Cases of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50 have been on the rise since the 1990s, according to a March report by the American Cancer Society.
Half of all new diagnoses are in people under the age of 66, the report said.
The middle age is declining
The American Cancer Society recommends regular colon and rectal cancer screenings from the age of 45. Other health organizations still recommend routine screening from the age of 50.
In 2017 – according to the latest available data – according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 52,547 people died of colorectal cancer.
Over the years, more young people have been diagnosed. A report by the American Cancer Society found that the median age of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer was 72 in 1989. It remained so until the early 1920s and dropped to 66 by 2016.
The diagnosis of people with colorectal cancer in the United States is declining between the age of 65 and older, but rising in younger adults.
Researchers have known that cases of colorectal cancer are rising in younger age groups. “But we were surprised at how fast it’s happening,” said Rebecca Siegel, co-author of the study and scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.
“This report is very important because it not only provides an overview of the current burden of colorectal cancer, but also provides a window into the future,” said Siegel.
If the growth of younger adults continues, doctors will face unique challenges, such as the need to maintain fertility and sexual function, as well as the risk of long-term effects of treatment due to their extended life expectancy.
An obesity epidemic may also be a factor
The report included, among other things, data on colorectal cancer cases and deaths from the National Cancer Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Based on the analysis of the data, the researchers found that the number of cases of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50 has been increasing since the mid-1990s.
The study increased the incidence in this age group by 2.2% per year from 2012 to 2016 and included tumors found in the colon and rectum.
Among adults aged 50 to 64, researchers found that the incidence of colon and rectal cancer declined during the 1920s, then changed direction and increased by 1% each year between 2011 and 2016. The study found that there was a rapid decline in colon and rectal cancer among adults aged 65 and over. persisted during the 2000s and these rates fell by 3.3% each year between 2011 and 2016.
“Much of the decrease in the incidence in older adults is due to increased screening, but the cause of the increasing incidence in younger age groups is still unknown,” Siegel said.
“The obesity epidemic is likely to contribute, but it does not seem to be the only cause,” she said. “Diet has a major impact on the risk of colorectal cancer, and much research is currently being conducted into how the various things we consume, including drugs such as antibiotics, affect intestinal health, specifically their role in identifying the microorganisms that make up our microbiome. “
Physicians should monitor treatment with younger patients
The review also revealed colorectal cancer death trends and identified future prognosis for the disease.
The 2008-2017 analysis reduced the death rate from colorectal cancer by 3% per year for adults aged 65 and over and by 0.6% per year for adults aged 50 to 64, but jumped in adults under 50 by 1.3% per year.
The report also found that “significant differences” by race and geography persist, with Alaska’s indigenous mortality rate almost three times higher than that of whites and about twice that of blacks.
In terms of incidence, between 2012 and 2016, the incidence rate ranged from 30 cases per 100,000 people among the Asian / Pacific population and from 38.6 for Caucasians to 45.7 for blacks and 89 for Alaskan natives.
There were limitations in the research and the researchers were not able to determine exactly why there was a certain decrease or increase in colorectal cancer in different age groups.
Nevertheless, researchers have been able to make some projections of future trends and predict an estimated 53,200 deaths from colorectal cancer in 2020, with an estimated 7% or 3,640 deaths in adults under 50.
The analysis also predicted 147,950 newly diagnosed cases of colorectal cancer in the United States this year, with about 12% or 17,930 cases being diagnosed in adults under 50 years of age.
The analysis may create more consensus in screening before the age of 50, Siegel said.