Contributions of Adenocarcinoma and Carcinoid Tumors to Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer Incidence Rates in the United States

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Annals of Internal Medicine


Background: Early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC) incidence rates (IRs) are rising, according to previous cancer registry analyses. However, analysis of histologic subtypes, including adenocarcinoma (the focus of CRC screening and diagnostic testing) and carcinoid tumors (which are classified as "colorectal cancer" in SEER [Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results] databases but have a distinct pathogenesis and are managed differently from adenocarcinoma), has not been reported. Objective: To assess EOCRC IRs and changes in IRs over time, stratified by histology. Design: Retrospective analysis. Setting: Yearly IRs according to SEER 18 data from 2000 to 2016 on age-specific colon-only, rectal-only, and combinedsite CRC cases, stratified by histology ("overall" CRC [all histologic subtypes], adenocarcinoma, and carcinoid tumors) and age. Patients: 119 624 patients with CRC. Measurements: IRs per 100 000 population, changes in 3- year average annual IRs (pooled IRs from 2000 to 2002 vs. those from 2014 to 2016), and annual percentage change (APC) in persons aged 20 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, and 50 to 54 years. Results: The steepest changes in adenocarcinoma 3-year average annual IRs were for rectal-only cases in persons aged 20 to 29 years (+39% [0.33 to 0.46 per 100 000]; P < 0.050) and 30 to 39 years (+39% [1.92 to 2.66 per 100 000]; P < 0.050) and colon-only cases in those aged 30 to 39 years (+20% [3.30 to 3.97 per 100 000]; P < 0.050). Corresponding APCs were 1.6% (P < 0.050), 2.2% (P < 0.050), and 1.2% (P < 0.050), respectively. In persons aged 40 to 49 years, 3-year average annual IRs increased in both colon-only (+13% [12.21 to 13.85 per 100 000]; P < 0.050) and rectal-only (+16% [7.50 to 8.72 per 100 000]; P < 0.050) subsites. Carcinoid tumors were common, representing approximately 4% to 20% of all colorectal and 8% to 34% of all rectal cancer cases, depending on age group and calendar year. Colon-only carcinoid tumors were rare. Colorectal carcinoid tumor IRs increased more steeply than adenocarcinoma in all age groups, thus affecting the contribution of carcinoid tumors to overall cancer cases over time. These changes were driven by rectal subsites and were most pronounced in persons aged 50 to 54 years, in whom rectal carcinoid tumors increased by 159% (2.36 to 6.10 per 100 000) between 2000 to 2002 and 2014 to 2016, compared with 10% for adenocarcinoma (18.07 to 19.84 per 100 000), ultimately accounting for 22.6% of all rectal cancer cases. Limitation: Population-based data. Conclusion: These findings underscore the importance of assessing histologic CRC subtypes independently. Doing so may lead to a better understanding of the drivers of temporal changes in overall CRC incidence and a more accurate measurement of outcomes from efforts to reduce adenocarcinoma risk, and can guide future research.

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American College of Physicians