(HealthDay News) — Colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality rates have decreased since 1970 in black adults (aged 20 to 54 years), but increased among white individuals, according to a research letter published in the Aug. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Rebecca L. Siegel, M.P.H., from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues obtained data from SEER*Stat for decedents aged 20 to 54 years as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics to examine CRC mortality from 1970 to 2014.

The researchers found that 242,637 people aged 20 to 54 years died from CRC at a median age of 49 years. Among individuals aged 20 to 54 years there was a decrease in CRC mortality rates from 6.3 to 3.9 per 100,000 population from 1970 to 2004, followed by a 1.0 percent annual increase to 4.3 percent in 2014. The increase was only seen in white individuals, with a 1.4 percent annual increase, from 3.6 in 2004 to 4.1 in 2014. Mortality rates decreased among black individuals by 0.4 percent annually to 1.1 percent annually, from 8.1 to 6.1 from 1970 to 2014, respectively. Among whites, mortality trends were stable for those aged 20 to 29 years from 1988 to 2014, but increased for those aged 30 to 39 years, 40 to 49 years, and 50 to 54 years (1.6, 1.9, and 0.9 percent annually, respectively) from 2005 to 2014.

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“Escalating mortality rates in young and middle-aged adults highlight the need for earlier CRC detection through age-appropriate screening and more timely follow-up of symptoms,” the authors write.

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