Focusing on colorectal cancer in young adults (Review)

Virginia Constantinou, Constantina Constantinou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Colorectal cancer (CRC) ranks as the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Recent years have witnessed an increase in the incidence of CRC among adults <50 years old on a global scale. The increased incidence is associated with several modifiable risk factors, including obesity, type II diabetes, physical inactivity and frequent antibiotic use. In younger individuals, haematochezia and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms, predominantly affecting the left-side colon. While certain cases of early-onset CRC (eoCRC) are associated with a genetic predisposition, the majority result from sporadic mutations in the genes APC, KRAS, BRAF and TP53, which trigger uncontrolled cell proliferation and tumour formation. Colorectal carcinogenesis involves three major pathways: The chromosomal instability (CIN), microsatellite instability and CpG island methylator phenotype pathways. Dysregulation of the CIN pathway accounts for 85% of sporadic cases of eoCRC. Notably, eoCRC exhibits a distinctive molecular profile, characterized by a decreased prevalence of BRAF muta-tions, an increased prevalence of KRAS mutations and LINE-1 hypomethylation, and involvement of the Microsatellite and Chromosomal Stable pathway. Prevention strategies for eoCRC primarily centre on lifestyle modifications and the development of screening programs targeting younger populations. Further exploration into the molecular mechanisms involved in the identification of novel risk factors associated with eoCRC is imperative. These efforts, in conjunction with the development of specific screening strategies, hold the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality in the future. Contents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalMolecular and Clinical Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • colorectal cancer
  • early-onset
  • epidemiology
  • incidence
  • pathophysiology
  • prevention
  • young adults


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