Colorectal cancer is affecting more and more young people


The incidence of colorectal cancer is unfortunately rising markedly in people under 37 years.

The incidence rate and mortality linked to colorectal cancer have been falling for about ten years, a direct consequence of detection by colonoscopy which makes it possible to detect this cancer before it develops (pre-cancerous polyps) or even at mild initial stages.

This early detection can really make the difference between life and death, because current cancer treatments are much more effective when ‘they are directed towards small tumours, which have not yet reached an advanced stage. However, this does not mean that colorectal cancer is a thing of the past, quite the contrary.

This cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death. Screening has therefore made it possible to make significant progress, but there is still a long way to go to significantly reduce the burden imposed by this disease.

The incidence of colorectal cancer will double from here 2030

Colorectal cancer is generally considered to be a disease that most affects the elderly, 90 % of cases being diagnosed after the age of 50 years.

It is also for this reason that unless you have a family history of cancer of the colon, it is generally recommended to wait until this age before having a screening colonoscopy. However, that situation is changing. By analyzing the American statistics on the incidence of cancer between 1975 and 2010, a team from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas noticed that for 20 to 34 years , the incidence rates of the various forms of cancer of the colon (localized, regional and distant) as well as of the rectum increased by 2% per year during this period.

A similar increase in cancer of the rectum (but not colon) was also observed in 35-49 year. The authors estimate that if current trends continue, the incidence of these cancers in people under 50 years will almost double by 2030. Thus, 11 % of all breast cancers colon and 23 % of all rectal cancers will then be diagnosed in young people, twice as many as today.

Not only are these cancers striking earlier and earlier, but they are also at more advanced stages. An analysis by another group of researchers indicates that of the 258 024 colorectal cancer patients between 1998 and 2011, 37 847 (15%) were under the age of 50 years and these people had a higher probability of being affected by more aggressive forms of the disease.

Only positive point in the table: despite the severity of their condition, these individuals had a five-year survival greater than those of older individuals, possibly due to their ability to undergo more aggressive surgical and radiotherapy treatments.

80% of colorectal cancers can be avoided by changing lifestyle habits

Colorectal cancer is estimated to take between 10 and 37 years to develop and reach an advanced, clinically detectable stage . Colorectal cancer diagnosed in people younger than 37 years (and sometimes even in their twenties) means therefore that these cancers appeared very early in the existence of these people.

This is a completely incredible phenomenon: like 80 % of colorectal cancers are directly linked to lifestyle habits, which means that exposure to the North American way of life accelerates the development of this cancer from the beginning of adulthood.

To significantly reduce mortality linked to colorectal cancer, we cannot rely solely on screening. Early detection of a tumor is a complement to cancer prevention and not a way to prevent this disease.

Above all, it is necessary to modify this pro-cancerous lifestyle and adopt better lifestyle habits will inhibit or at least slow down the development of this cancer.


– Bailey CE et al. Increasing disparities in the age-related incidences of colon and rectal cancers in the United States, 1975-2011. JAMA Surg,;93:v17-22.

– Abdelsattar ZM et al. Colorectal cancer outcomes and treatment patterns in patients too young for average-risk screening. Cancer

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