Report Shows Rise in Colorectal Cancer Among Young Adults

By Sara Bondell - March 06, 2023

Colorectal cancer is being diagnosed in younger patients and at more advanced stages than ever before, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

One in five new cases of colorectal cancer in the United States occur in people younger than 55. This is almost twice the rate in 1995, when more than one in 10 cases were in this age group. New diagnoses also appear to be at more advanced stages. In 2019, 60% of all new colorectal cancer cases among all ages were advanced.

It’s a trend providers at Moffitt Cancer Center are also seeing.

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"In my lifespan of a colorectal surgeon, I have seen more and more younger-onset patients coming in. These are the cases that hit us the hardest."

- Dr. Julian Sanchez, colorectal surgeon

“In my lifespan of a colorectal surgeon, I have seen more and more younger-onset patients coming in,” colorectal surgeon Dr. Julian Sanchez said. “These are the cases that hit us the hardest.”

While the reason for this alarming trend is still unclear, Sanchez says environmental factors such as obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet could contribute to the increased rates.

While overall colorectal cancer death rates fell 57% between 1970 and 2022, for those under 50, death rates continued to climb 1% each year since 2004. Death rates are highest among American Indian/Alaskan Native and Black populations.

The report also found a higher percentage of tumors are being found on the left side, closer to the rectum. The number of colorectal cancers in that location has climbed from 27% in 1995 to 31% in 2019.

This year, an estimated 153,020 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the United States and an estimated 52,550 will die. Seven percent of them will be younger than 50.

In response to the rising colorectal cancer rates in young adults, in 2021 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force began recommending screening colonoscopies start at 45 instead of 50 for those of average risk.

“If you are below screening age, pay attention to your body. If there’s something abnormal, get it investigated, and more than anything if you aren’t happy with the first answer, get a second, third, fourth answer until you are happy with it,” Sanchez said.

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer More Articles


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