July 9 (UPI) -- Rectal cancer patients under 50 don't see an improvement to their overall survival after receiving recommended treatments, researchers found in a study.
Researchers at the University of Florida found chemotherapy and radiation, with surgery, do not prolong life for younger patients.
The researchers note that rectal cancer is decreasing among patients older than 50 years because of improved screening adherence, but that rectal cancer incidence is higher for people under age 50. Overall, there are an estimated 140,000 new rectal cancer cases.
"Our findings support the notion that rectal cancer in young patients may be biologically different from older patients, with differing response to treatment, as has been previously shown in colon cancer," Dr. Atif Iqbal, of the University of Florida College of Medicine, said in a press release. "These findings may help stimulate future research trial proposals focused on the younger patient population."
For the study, published Monday in the journal Cancer, the researchers analyzed medical records for 52,519 patients with rectal cancer collected between 2004 and 2014.
The team found patients younger than 50 who are diagnosed with rectal cancer do not see a survival benefit from currently recommended treatment methods for stages II and III rectal cancer, including a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Younger patients were also more likely to be female and minorities, and more likely to be diagnosed with a higher stage cancer.
"These data provide practicing physicians the ability to offer a prognosis personalized to the younger population, which can greatly improve discussions with younger patients," Iqbal said.
Dr. Matthew Kalady, of the Cleveland Clinic, wrote in an editorial published with the study that doctors need to evaluate approaches to colorectal cancer prevention, screening and treatment.
"This manuscript should open the eyes of physicians treating rectal cancer patients and of those making treatment guideline recommendations and screening policies," Kalady wrote.
While saying the study is significant, he also noted that further research is needed on local recurrence and disease-free survival, as well as factors of diet, physical activity, obesity, genetics and gut microbes for rectal cancer patients.