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Signet cell rectal cancer—an aggressive type of rectal cancer—is almost five times more common in patients under the age of 40 than in older patients.

These results were presented at the 97th Annual Clinical Congress of theAmericanCollege of Surgeons.

The colon and rectum are parts of the body’s digestive system and together form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine. The colon is the first 6 feet of the large intestine and the rectum is the last 8-10 inches. Each year in theUnited States, more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer and more than 40,000 are diagnosed with rectal cancer. Although rectal cancer remains relatively uncommon in young adults, incidence has increased in recent years.

Rectal cancers that involve a type of cell known as a signet cell are often diagnosed at a more advanced stage and tend to have a worse prognosis than other types of rectal cancer. To explore how the frequency of signet cell rectal cancers varies by age, researchers evaluated a largeUScancer database (the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program).

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Signet cell cancers accounted for close to 5 percent of all rectal cancers among people under the age of 40, but only 1 percent of rectal cancers among people over the age of 40.

These results—coupled with the increasing incidence of rectal cancer in young adults—highlight the need for more attention to the problem of rectal cancer in people under the age of 40.

Reference:AmericanCollegeof Surgeons. News from the Clinical Congress. Surgeons find higher than expected rate of aggressive rectal cancer in younger adults. 2011.

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