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Am J Surg Pathol. 2009 Apr;33(4):572-82. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e31818afd6b.

Clinical, pathologic, and molecular features of early-onset colorectal carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY 10021, USA.


The incidence of colorectal carcinoma has increased among patients <40 years of age for unclear reasons. In this study, we describe the clinical, pathologic, and molecular features of colorectal carcinomas that developed in young patients. We compiled a study group of 24 patients <40 years of age with colorectal carcinoma, and 45 patients > or =40 years of age served as controls. Cases were evaluated for clinical risk factors of malignancy and pathologic features predictive of outcome. The tumors were immunohistochemically stained for O6-methylguanine methyltransferase, MLH-1, MSH-2, MSH-6, beta-catenin, chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 4, epidermal growth factor receptor, TP53, p16, survivin, and alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase; assessed for microsatellite instability and mutations in beta-catenin, APC, EGFR, PIK3CA, KRAS, and BRAF; evaluated for micro-RNA expression (miR-21, miR-20a, miR-183, miR-192, miR-145, miR-106a, miR-181b, and miR-203); and examined for evidence of human papillomavirus infection. One study patient each had ulcerative colitis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. Ninety-two percent of tumors from young patients occurred in the distal colon (P=0.006), particularly the rectum (58%, P=0.02), and 75% were stage III or IV. Tumors from young patients showed more frequent lymphovascular (81%, P=0.03) and/or venous (48%, P=0.003) invasion, an infiltrative growth pattern (81%, P=0.03), and alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase expression (83%, P=0.02) compared with controls. Carcinomas in this group showed significantly increased expression of miR-21, miR-20a, miR-145, miR-181b, and miR-203 (P< or =0.005 for all comparisons with controls). These results indicate that early-onset carcinomas commonly show pathologic features associated with aggressive behavior. Posttranslational regulation of mRNA and subsequent protein expression may be particularly important to the development of colorectal carcinomas in young patients.

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