Background: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is generally thought of as a disease of older persons; however a significant proportion of patients <40 years present with this disease. Many investigators have published single-institution series on CRC in the young, yet the data vary markedly. We performed a structured review of the current literature aiming to (1) characterize CRC in the young population and (2) determine how CRC in this population should be further addressed regarding detection and treatment.
Data sources: A Medline literature search was completed. Articles were chosen to include those studies that examined patients <40 years old. A total of 55 articles were chosen from the search and review of the bibliographies.
Conclusions: We found that CRC in the young population appears to be more aggressive, to present with later stage, and to have poorer pathologic findings. However, if detected early, young patients with Dukes' stage A or B lesions have better overall 5-year survival rates. These findings emphasize the need for health care providers to have a heightened awareness when caring for this young population, particularly because excellent modalities exist to diagnose and treat colorectal cancer.