HealthDay News — Americans in their early 50s and younger are experiencing significant increases in colorectal cancer incidence, according to research published online February 28 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Rebecca Siegel, MPH, strategic director for surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues collected data on 490,305 U.S. men and women aged 20 and older who were diagnosed with colorectal cancer between 1974 and 2013.

Although overall rates of colon cancer started decreasing in 1974, in the mid-1980s the rates started rising 1 to 2.4% a year among people aged 20 to 39, the researchers found. Among those 40 to 54, colon cancer rates increased by 0.5 to 1.3% per year from the mid-1990s through 2013. 

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Rates of rectal cancer have been rising longer and faster than colon cancer for younger Americans, Siegel told HealthDay. Starting in about 1974, the rate has been increasing by 3.2% a year among people aged 20 to 29. Since 1980, the rate has been increasing by the same degree among those aged 30 to 39, the researchers found. Among people 40 to 54, rectal cancer rates increased by 2.3% annually from the 1990s to 2013. Rectal cancer rates in adults 55 and older, however, have been dropping for at least 40 years, Siegel said.

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