Increasing disparities in the age-related incidences of colon and rectal cancers in the United States, 1975-2010

JAMA Surg. 2015 Jan;150(1):17-22. doi: 10.1001/jamasurg.2014.1756.


Importance: The overall incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) has been decreasing since 1998 but there has been an apparent increase in the incidence of CRC in young adults.

Objective: To evaluate age-related disparities in secular trends in CRC incidence in the United States.

Design, setting, and patients: A retrospective cohort study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) CRC registry. Age at diagnosis was analyzed in 15-year intervals starting at the age of 20 years. SEER*Stat was used to obtain the annual cancer incidence rates, annual percentage change, and corresponding P values for the secular trends. Data were obtained from the National Cancer Institute's SEER registry for all patients diagnosed as having colon or rectal cancer from January 1, 1975, through December 31, 2010 (N = 393 241).

Main outcome and measure: Difference in CRC incidence by age.

Results: The overall age-adjusted CRC incidence rate decreased by 0.92% (95% CI, -1.14 to -0.70) between 1975 and 2010. There has been a steady decline in the incidence of CRC in patients age 50 years or older, but the opposite trend has been observed for young adults. For patients 20 to 34 years, the incidence rates of localized, regional, and distant colon and rectal cancers have increased. An increasing incidence rate was also observed for patients with rectal cancer aged 35 to 49 years. Based on current trends, in 2030, the incidence rates for colon and rectal cancers will increase by 90.0% and 124.2%, respectively, for patients 20 to 34 years and by 27.7% and 46.0%, respectively, for patients 35 to 49 years.

Conclusions and relevance: There has been a significant increase in the incidence of CRC diagnosed in young adults, with a decline in older patients. Further studies are needed to determine the cause for these trends and identify potential preventive and early detection strategies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Rectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Rectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • SEER Program
  • Sex Distribution
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult