Data from the National Cancer Registry reveal a concerning rapid increase in the incidence of cancer in young adults in England.
An analysis of the data shows that annual incidence rates (IR) among the youngest adults (age, 20-39 years) fell slightly between 1971 and the early 1990s but increased rapidly from then onwards.
IR among adults aged 20-29 years rose by 8 per cent from 0.8 per 100,000 in 1993 to 2.8 per 100,000 in 2014. An annual increase of 8.1 per cent was seen in 30- to 39-year-olds between 2005 and 2014.
Among the two youngest age groups combined (20-39 years), the average annual increase for cancer of the right colon was 5.2 per cent between 1991 and 2010, rising to 19.4 per cent per year between 2010 (IR=1.2) and 2014 (IR=2.5). The increased incidence for cancers of the right colon since 2010 was more marked among the most affluent young adults. Smaller but substantial increases were observed for cancers of the left colon and rectum.
The increasing IRs in younger age groups contrast with stable or decreased rate in those aged 50 years and older over the same periods.
The authors speculate that the increasing rates in young adults may be linked to changes in the prevalence of obesity and other risk factors but said more research is needed on the cause of the observed cohort effect.
They say that while extension of mass screening may not be justifiable due to the low number of newly diagnosed cases, they advise clinicians to be alert to the trend.