Recent trends in the age at diagnosis of colorectal cancer in the US National Cancer Data Base, 2004-2015

Cancer. 2019 Nov 1;125(21):3828-3835. doi: 10.1002/cncr.32347. Epub 2019 Jul 22.


Background: The incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) in adults younger than 50 years has increased in the United States over the past decades according to Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data. National guidelines conflict over beginning screening at the age of 45 or 50 years.

Methods: This was a retrospective study of National Cancer Data Base data from 2004 to 2015. The Cochran-Armitage test for trend was used to assess changes in the proportion of cases diagnosed at an age younger than 50 years.

Results: This study identified 130,165 patients diagnosed at an age younger than 50 years and 1,055,598 patients diagnosed at the age of 50 years or older. The proportion of the total number of patients diagnosed with CRC at an age younger than 50 years rose (12.2% in 2015 vs 10.0% in 2004; P < .0001). Younger adults presented with more advanced disease (stage III/IV; 51.6% vs 40.0% of those 50 years old or older). Among men, diagnosis at ages younger than 50 years rose only in non-Hispanic whites (P < .0001), whereas among women, Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites had increases in younger diagnoses over time (P < .05). All income quartiles had a proportional increase in younger adults over time (P < .001), with the highest income quartile having the highest proportion of younger cases. The proportion of younger onset CRC cases rose in urban areas (P < .001) but did not rise in rural areas.

Conclusions: The proportion of persons diagnosed with CRC at an age younger than 50 years in the United States has continued to increase over the past decade, and younger adults present with more advanced disease. These data should be considered in the ongoing discussion of screening guidelines.

Keywords: National Cancer Data Base (NCDB); age; colorectal cancer; diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SEER Program / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data