Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 3, pp 722–733 | Cite as

Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults

  • Jennifer A. Inra
  • Sapna Syngal


The incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) have been decreasing in adults over 50 years of age, however, these rates have been increasing in adults under 50. The majority of CRC in young adults is sporadic, and is likely due to behavioral and environmental causes, however the exact etiology still remains unclear. The minority of CRC in this population is due to inherited CRC syndromes. Young adults with CRC are often symptomatic (abdominal pain, rectal bleeding), and diagnosis is often delayed due to reasons such as under-utilized health care services, and physicians attributing symptoms to diagnoses other than CRC. Young adults with CRC often have more aggressive tumor characteristics, but they tend to have better survival rates when compared with older adults when matched for stage. Treatment is the same for young patients with CRC, however there are issues that arise in this population that do not necessarily affect older adults, such as the negative effect of chemotherapy/radiation on fertility. It is not clear that screening individuals for CRC at ages under 50 is beneficial or cost-effective. Further studies are needed regarding this topic.


Colorectal cancer Young adults Colorectal cancer screening Review 



The authors would like to thank Matthew Yurgelun, M.D. for thoughtful review and suggestions. Supported by NCI Grant K24 113433.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of GastroenterologyBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.Population Sciences DivisionDana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA

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