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Colorectal Cancer Rates Rise Among the Young

March 2, 2017

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The fight against cancer continues to feel most often like an uphill battle, but it’s been heartening to see colorectal cancer diagnosis and death rates fall steadily over the years. So it was troubling to learn this week that colorectal cancer rates are actually rising among younger Americans.

In Americans aged 50 and older, the range most likely to be touched by colorectal cancers, the diagnosis rate dropped by 32% from 2000 to 2013 and the death rate dropped by 34% between 2000 and 2014, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society. Screening tests, recommended for those 50 and above, are credited for contributing to the drop.

But among people younger than 50, incidence rates increased by 22% from 2000 to 2013, and mortality rates increased by 13% during 2000 to 2014. Once age is taken into account, those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer and quadruple the risk of rectal cancer compared to people born around 1950, when risk was lowest. Factors thought to play a role in these increases include rising rates of excess body weight, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy diets.

Researchers looked at the records of almost 500,000 people 20 years and older who were diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer from 1974 through 2013.

Although younger Americans’ risk is still far lower than older Americans’, these worrisome findings will almost certainly drive additional research into causal factors. This research will likely also inform any adjusted screening guidelines.

To get that work done, researchers need cancerous tissue. We at iSpecimen have been helping researchers meet these needs since our inception.

It remains to be seen what the next wave of research may reveal or how screening guidelines may change. Whatever the case, we’ll do anything in our power to help colorectal cancer researchers and all cancer researchers do their important work – and keep the advancements in research coming.