One in 7 Diagnosed With Colorectal Cancer Younger Than 50

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And younger patients more likely to have advanced-stage cancer
And younger patients more likely to have advanced-stage cancer

HealthDay News — Nearly one in seven colorectal cancer patients are under 50, and younger patients are more likely to have advanced-stage cancer, according to a report published online January 25 in Cancer.

Samantha Hendren, MD, MPH, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues culled federal government data for 258,024 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1998 and 2011.

Of these patients, 14.7% were younger than 50. These patients were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer and more likely to have surgery than older patients (72 versus 63%). Radiation therapy was also used more often in younger patients than in older patients (53 versus 48%). For patients under 50, the overall five-year survival rate was 67.7%, compared to 66.8% for patients 50 and older.

"This study is really a wake-up call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colorectal cancers are occurring in people under 50. In a practical sense, this means that we should look out for warning signs of colorectal cancer such as anemia, a dramatic change in the size or frequency of bowel movements, and dark blood or blood mixed with the stool in bowel movements," Hendren said in a journal news release. "Also, people with a positive family history for colorectal cancer (in first-degree relatives such as parents or siblings) and some others who are at higher risk should begin screening earlier than 50. This is already recommended, but we don't think this is happening consistently, and this is something we need to optimize."

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