Risk Factors That Raise Odds for Early-Onset Colon Cancer

By Denise Mann
HealthDay reporter

THURSDAY May 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Colon cancer is on the rise in people under 50, and the million dollar question is why.

Now, new research suggests that certain lifestyle factors, such as eating a lot of red meat and consuming heavy alcohol, may play a role in this increase.

“The occurrence of colorectal cancer in people under 50 is increasing in many countries, but the causes are poorly understood [and] our research is the first large-scale effort to identify these causes, providing early clues for identifying those most at risk, ”said study author Richard Hayes, professor of population health and medicine environment at NYU Langone Health in New York.

The results are in line with the US Preventive Services Task Force’s announcement Tuesday that it will lower the recommended age for the first screening colonoscopy from 50 to 45 in people at average risk for colon cancer.

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To better understand which lifestyle factors may play a role in the increase of colon cancer in young people, the researchers analyzed data from 13 studies including people who developed colon cancer before and after age 50, as well as their counterparts with no track record. colon cancer.

In addition to eating more red meat and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, people who were diagnosed with early-onset colon cancer did not regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and did not go as far in school as their counterparts who did not develop cancer until the age of 50. Daily low dose aspirin may reduce the risk of colon cancer.

All of these factors also increase the risk of developing colon cancer after age 50. In contrast, body mass index (BMI, an estimate of body fat based on height and weight) and smoking were not risk factors for early onset colon cancer, but they were in cases of late onset.

When researchers broke down colon cancer risks based on where the cancer was found, they noted that people who did not eat enough high-fiber foods were more likely to develop cancer in their body. rectum than in their colon.

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These risks were similar for men and women, Hayes said. The research did not include enough black or non-white people to draw conclusions about the role of race in colon cancer risk before the age of 50, he said.

“It is important that this area of ​​research extends to other racial and ethnic groups in the future,” said Hayes.

The study was published in the June 2021 issue of the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

“This study tells us a bit more about young people who have these risk factors and if they have abdominal symptoms and have some of these risks, we can recommend earlier or more frequent screening,” said Dr Neeha. Zaidi, assistant professor. of oncology at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. She did not participate in the new study.

The increase in colon cancer in people under the age of 50 is probably not due to genes, said Heather Hampel, genetic counselor at the Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program at Ohio State University.

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“It’s good that the new document confirms some of these risks that we’ve seen in other studies, but we were hoping to identify something specific to early-onset colorectal cancer that may be new since 1960,” he said. she declared.

“There is no gun to explain why early-onset colon cancer is increasing so dramatically,” said Hampel, who was not in the study.

Until researchers find the cause, the best way to stay ahead of colon cancer is to follow screening guidelines, know your family history, and eat healthy, she said. .

More information

Learn more about the new colon cancer screening recommendations at the US Preventive Services Task Force.

SOURCES: Richard Hayes, DDS, PhD, MPH, professor, population health, environmental medicine, NYU Langone Health, New York City; Neeha Zaidi, MD, assistant professor, oncology, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore; Heather Hampel, LGC, MS, Genetic Advisor, Comprehensive Cancer Center at Ohio State University – James Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program, Columbus; JNCI Cancer Spectrum, June 2021

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