Cleveland Clinic has established a center focused on the diagnosis, care, and research of young-onset colorectal cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, cases of colorectal cancer in patients under age 50 have grown by more than 50% since the 1990s.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. It is also one of the most preventable cancers. As colorectal cancer rates have fallen overall, researchers are trying to understand why they are rising in younger adults.
Evidence has shown that obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, it is likely that other factors are also contributing to the increase in cases of young-onset colorectal cancer. A diagnosis of colorectal cancer before the age of 50 is considered young-onset.
“More research is needed to better understand what is causing the rise of colorectal cancer cases in young adults,” said David Liska, M.D., colorectal surgeon and director of the Center for Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer. “We now have a center dedicated to early-onset colorectal cancer, with a specific focus on treatment, care, and research.”
Younger patients often have diagnostic and treatment considerations that are specific to their age. A colorectal cancer diagnosis can interrupt their most productive years. To provide a personalized care plan, the center brings together a multidisciplinary team that includes specialists in surgery, oncology, radiation therapy, genetics, gastroenterology, fertility, psychology, and lifestyle medicine.
“The new center will allow us to take a comprehensive approach to the research, diagnosis and treatment of early-onset colorectal cancer,” said Scott Steele, M.D., MBA, chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Colorectal Surgery. “More molecular and clinical research is needed to better understand the alarming rise in young-onset colorectal cancer, with the goal of developing novel treatments and risk-based screening recommendations.”
Dr. Liska added that a “worrying trend that I have seen with patients under 50 is that they get diagnosed with colorectal cancer after having experienced symptoms for quite some time. It is important to know what factors can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer, what symptoms to be vigilant about, and when to get screened.”
Dr. Liska is also the director of the Sanford R. Weiss, MD Center for Hereditary Colorectal Neoplasia, home to the Jagelman Registries, which are the largest institutional registries for inherited colorectal cancer in North America.
“With this new Center for Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer, the goal is to build on our experience from the Weiss Center to personalize multidisciplinary care for young individuals with colorectal cancer,” Dr. Liska said. “This encompasses care navigators for patients and families, research coordinators, technology to build a sophisticated registry, research infrastructure, and more.”