Colorectal cancer mortality starts edging back up

Mortality rates from colorectal cancer in the U.S. have begun edging up for younger adults after decades of decline, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (August 8, 2017).

Researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS) examined colorectal cancer mortality rates by race and age for adults up to age 55. They based their analysis on data from 242,637 individuals ages 20 to 54 who died of colorectal cancer between 1970 and 2014.

For the entire study cohort, colorectal cancer mortality was 4.3 deaths per 100,000 in 2014, representing an increase of 1.0% a year compared with a mortality rate of 3.9 per 100,000 in 2004. For point of comparison, the mortality rate was 6.3 per 100,000 in 1970. The mortality rate has been rising since the mid-1990s, the researchers reported.

They also found big differences in mortality based on race and age. White individuals saw mortality rates remain stable from 1988 to 2014, but people ages 30 to 39 saw rates grow 1.6% per year from 1995 to 2014, by 1.9% annually for those 40 to 49, and 0.9% for those 50 to 54 from 2005 to 2014.

For black people, mortality rates declined over the entire study period for those ages 20 to 49, and since 1993 among those ages 50 to 54.

The numbers indicate that the recently reported incidence in colorectal cancer is not just the result of more screening, according to the researchers. Previous studies by the ACS have found that colorectal cancer incidence has been rising in the U.S. among adults younger than 55 since at least the mid-1990s.

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