'Wake-up call' — Half of new CRC diagnoses are early onset

Early-onset colorectal cancer rates continue to confound clinicians and researchers, with a new report claiming half of all new diagnoses were in people 66 and younger, CNN reports.

The American Cancer Society discovered the median age for CRC diagnosis fell from 72 in 1989 to 66 in 2016, according to a report on early-onset CRC in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Report co-author Rebecca Siegel said researchers were surprised by how fast the median diagnosis age was falling. Early-onset CRC poses a serious threat because treatments must preserve fertility and sexual function. Early-onset CRC patients also face more long-term treatment risks because of their extended life expectancies.

Early-onset CRC rates have increased since the mid-1990s and rose 1 percent annually between 2011 and 2016. Researchers believe there will be 147,950 new CRC cases in 2020, with 12 percent of those cases considered early onset.

Researchers said these projections "build more consensus for beginning to screen before 50. In addition, this should be a wake-up call for clinicians to be better about timely follow-up of younger patients who present with symptoms."

Despite the increase in early-onset CRC, among adults 65 and older, CRC rates continue to decline.

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