Colorectal Cancer on the Rise in Young Adults

Colorectal cancer has been on the decline, but those statistics are not true for young adults. New research shows that colorectal cancer is on the rise in young adults, developing before age 50.

Colorectal cancer has been declining for more than two decades, in part because of increased screening for colorectal cancer after age 50. Young adults are not screened routinely. The research authors say the increase in colorectal cancer under age 50 may be due to obesity and fast food consumption.

The study, published in the June 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, suggests the need for a further look at the trend. Colorectal cancer has been increasing in young adults recently. The research, led by Rebecca L. Siegel, M.P.H., from the American Cancer Society found that between 1992 and 2005, colorectal cancer rates among 20 to 29 year olds rose 5.2% per year in men and 5.6% per year in women, the youngest age group analyzed.

Between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s children began consuming five times more fast food, and the increase in fast food consumption was three fold for adults, leading the researchers to correlate rising rates of colorectal cancer under age 50 with poor dietary habits. Consuming less dairy and more red meat is also a risk factor for colorectal cancer, and may be a contributing factor for the findings.

The most common type of colorectal cancer found from the analysis is an increase in left sided rectal cancer (CRC) tumors. The authors conclude, "The disparate increase in left-sided CRC suggests that particular attention be given to studies to elucidate the behavioral and environmental risk factors responsible for this trend and potential prevention and early detection strategies. Colorectal cancer, and in particular left sided rectal tumors, have increased among adults, age 20 to 49, in the last three decades. The study from the American Cancer Society suggests a correlation between rising rates of colorectal cancer in young adults and increased obesity, red meat and fast food consumption.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2009;18(6):1695𔃆