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Alarming Increases in CRC Incidence Among Younger Adults

Colorectal cancer has increased dramatically in younger adults over a 20-year period, with the most drastic increase of 333% observed in teenagers 15 to 19, according to a new study being presented during Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2024 by Islam Mohamed, internal medicine resident, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“This data reveals some very concerning trends, particularly in our younger population who do not typically come to mind when considering CRC screening for patients,” says Dr. Mohamed.

Islam Mohamed, internal medicine resident, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Increases in CRC incidence among younger individuals has prompted several organizations to reduce the recommended age for CRC screening from 50 to 45 years. Following these updated guidelines, Dr. Mohamed wanted to take a closer look at the trends impacting young individuals in distinct age categories.

Researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder Database to assess the incidence of CRC from 1999 to 2020. They divided individuals into 5-year age groups, starting at 10-14 years of age up to 40-44 years.

All age groups experienced notable increases in the incidence of CRC between 1999 and 2020:

  • 500% increase in individuals 10-14 years of age,
  • 333% increase in individuals 15–19 years of age,
  • 185% increase in individuals 20–24 years of age,
  • 68% increase in individuals 25–29 years of age,
  • 71% increase in individuals 30–34 years of age,
  • 58% increase in individuals 35–39 years of age,
  • 45% increase in individuals 40–44 years of age
  • The highest incidence was seen in the 40–44-year-old group in 2020 at 21.2 per 100,000 individuals.

 

While the trends are alarming, according to Dr. Mohamed, the absolute incidence rate of colorectal cancer among children and teens is not high enough to warrant early widespread screening.

He does note, however, that physicians should not dismiss the possibility of CRC in a patient who presents with symptoms, no matter their age.

“It’s important that the public is aware of signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer,” he says. “Changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and/or rectal bleeding should prompt further evaluation.”

Dr. Mohamed hopes that this study will heighten the public’s awareness regarding risk factors for early onset colorectal cancer, which include genetic, metabolic, environmental and lifestyle-related factors. He believes further studies should be implemented to investigate other etiologies that may be contributing to this concerning uptrend. Ultimately, Mohamed says this could lead to more tailored screening recommendations that consider risk factors in addition to age.

Dr. Mohamed’s oral presentation, “Evolving trends in colorectal cancer incidence among young patients under 45: a 22-year analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder Database” on Monday, May 20, at 12:30 p.m. EDT is part of the session “Epidemiology of Gastrointestinal Disorders.”

If you’re not yet registered, secure your spot at DDW 2024 to unlock access to this session. All session captures will be released 24 hours after they’re complete and will be available to all attendees, both in person and online, to watch on demand.

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