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St. Luke's joins national study to tackle rising rates of colorectal cancers in younger adults

Wearing bright, Hawaiian-style shirts are a common sight at the Brian Olson Memorial Classic.
By Taylor Marschner, Notes and Announcements
September 14, 2023

A concerning nationwide trend has emerged, with a growing number of younger individuals being diagnosed with colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society in a 2019 study, there has been a 55% increase in the incidence rate of colorectal cancer diagnoses. In 1995, the incidence rate stood at 2.9 colorectal cancer diagnoses per 100,000 people. In 2019, that number has increased to 4.5 diagnoses per 100,000 people.

In an effort to determine the cause of younger adults being diagnosed with this disease, St. Luke's Health System is participating in a national study coordinated by the Dana Farber Cancer Institute funded in part by the Brian Olson Memorial Golf Classic.

Currently, 26 patients under the age of 50 in the Treasure Valley have been enrolled in a national study that is part of a wider international collaboration examining multiple factors of participants lifestyles, medical history, and genetics. 

"We don't have an answer as to why the incidence of colorectal cancers is increasing so rapidly in younger people. Some theories are diet, genetic factors, and the environment. It could be something we haven’t thought of. That’s the purpose of this study, to look at all the factors and find the answers." said Tammie Eslinger, Senior Manager, Oncology Clinical Research, St. Luke's Cancer Institute. "It’s critical that we have regional representation in this important study because the lifestyles and factors impacting people in Idaho may be very different than those impacting people in other parts of the world."

The rise in cases among young people is a contributing factor for the American Cancer Society decreasing the recommended age of colon cancer screening from 50 to 45. 

“A colonoscopy could save your life,” says Dr. Dan Zuckerman, an oncologist at St. Luke’s. “The actual colonoscopy scope takes about 25 minutes and with a local anesthetic, it’s almost completely painless. There is some preparation, but it’s largely done in the comfort of your home and the procedure itself is quick and discreet.”

Brian Olson died in 1999 at the age of 39 from colorectal cancer, leaving behind a wife and two young sons. Olson was a long-time employee at Hewlett-Packard and active in his community. After his death, many of his colleagues at HP and friends in the community banded together to start the tournament. Since its inception in 2000, the Brian Olson Memorial Golf Classic has raised more than $550,000 in proceeds for St. Luke’s Cancer Institute, making it one of the largest third-party fundraising events for the cancer institute. This year the event will be held on Friday, Sept. 15 at Falcon Crest Golf Club.

About The Author

Taylor Marschner is a St. Luke's public relations coordinator.