SEATTLE – Improvements in diagnosis and treatment have lengthened the survival time of patients with colorectal cancer, but the majority of deaths from CRC occur within the first 5 years.
According to new findings presented at the annual Society of Surgical Oncology Cancer Symposium, CRC as a cause of death is surpassed by cardiovascular disease (CVD) and second primary cancers as time goes on.
Dr. Lewis explained that CRC as a cause of death begins to plateau over time and other causes become more important.
“As time goes on, colorectal cancer becomes less prominent, and by year 8, cardiovascular death surpasses it. By year 10, colorectal cancer is surpassed by second cancers and neurologic diseases.”
Information about long-term health problems in long-term colorectal cancer survivors is limited. To address this, Dr. Lewis and his colleagues sought to understand the trends and causes of death over time.
They analyzed causes of death in CRC patients who have survived 5 years and longer using the California Cancer Registry (2000-2011) that is linked to inpatient records. From this database, 139,743 patients with CRC were identified, with 97,604 (69.8%) having been treated for disease originating from the colon and 42,139 (30.2%) from the rectum.
The median age of the patients at the time of presentation was 68 years; at 5 years after diagnosis, 70 years; and at 10 years, 74 years. The 5-year overall survival was 59.1%, and it was during that 5 years that 95% of cancer-specific deaths occurred.
During the first 5 years, the major cause of death was CRC, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the mortality (n = 38,992, 65.4%). This was followed by cardiovascular disease (n = 7,140, 12.0%), second primary cancer (n = 3,775, 6.3%), neurologic disease (n = 2,329, 3.9%), and pulmonary disease (n = 2,307, 3.9%).
The most common second primary malignancies affecting CRC survivors were lung and hematologic cancers, followed by pancreatic and liver cancers.
Overall, in long-term survivors, cardiovascular disease was the major cause of death (n = 2,163, 24.0%) although nearly as many deaths were due to CRC (2,094, 23.2%). This was followed by neurologic disease (n = 1,174, 13.0%), secondary primary cancer (n = 1,146, 12.7%), and pulmonary disease (n = 765, 8.5%).
There was no funding source disclosed in the abstract. Dr. Lewis had no disclosures.