The 4th Annual Early-Age Onset Colorectal Cancer (EAO CRC) Summit will be held this Thursday and Friday, April 26-27, in New York City. This singular, collaborative event brings together the top researchers, physicians, geneticists, and other professionals with a passionate and motivated group of EAO-CRC survivors, caregivers, and advocates. This year the Summit will be tackling the biggest question facing anyone who has been touched by early onset of this disease: WHY. Why are CRC incidence rates in young people, from teenage to under age 50, increasing so dramatically? What does the latest research tell us? We will find out!
One of this year’s speakers is Rebecca Siegel, MPH. Rebecca is the Strategic Director of Surveillance Information Services at the American Cancer Society. She has authored several published articles on cancer statistics and EAO CRC. In anticipation of this year’s Summit, Rebecca answered some burning questions for us.
Colon Cancer Foundation (CCF): This is your first appearance at the EAO-CRC Summit since the publication of your landmark study, Colorectal Cancer Incidence Patterns in the United States, 1974-2013. Why is participating in this Summit important to you? What sets this event apart from others you have attended?
Rebecca Siegel (RS): Most of the time, it is easy to explain why a particular cancer rate is increasing or decreasing. However, this is not the case for the rise in EO CRC. Obesity increases the risk of CRC and the epidemic has likely contributed to the trend, but much of the data suggest that other, unknown factors are at play. This meeting is exciting because it not only brings together experts on topics from environmental carcinogens to molecular genetics, but also includes young onset CRC survivors, who have their own unique perspective. It will be a brainstorming session with all of the key stakeholders to help generate ideas for how we can go about solving this mystery.
CCF: When your study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute last year, there was quite a bit of press including an article in the New York Times by Roni Rabin highlighting the stories of some young CRC survivors. What impact do you think your research has had, and what impact has the response to your study had on you?
RS: I think that all of the publicity has helped to increase awareness of the trend, and the fact that although cancer is rare in young adults, it does happen. Almost 30% of patients diagnosed with rectal cancer are 20-54 years of age. And too many of these patients experience delays in diagnosis that reduce their treatment options and likelihood of survival. They, nor their doctors, are considering the possibility of cancer even with the most common symptoms, like persistent rectal bleeding and abdominal pain, because it is rare. But because of that, patients under 50 are much more likely to be diagnosed with disease that has spread beyond the colon or rectum than those who are older. I cannot express how gratifying it is to read some of the comments on Roni Rabin’s Times article and realize that a young person was diagnosed earlier because they read that story.
CCF: Can you tell us any tidbits from your upcoming presentation? How has your research progressed over the last year?
RS: We are looking at the data from different angles to try to uncover more clues about what might be causing the trend, but unfortunately I don’t have any results to share at this time.
CCF: In addition to the EAO-CRC Summit, what else do we need to do to address this urgent issue?
RS: Additional research is needed to identify currently unknown factors that may increase CRC risk, as well as the influence of known risk factors, like an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, on children, adolescents, and young adults. Exposures happen 10-20 years before cancer is diagnosed, and almost everything we currently know about CRC risk factors is based on people diagnosed in their 60s and 70s.
For more information about the 4th Annual EAO-CRC Summit and to register, click here.