According to a reviewarticle by Mayo Clinic researchers, early onset colorectal cancer, defined as being diagnosed when under 50, continues to steadily rise in the United States and other high-income countries. This increase, coupled with a decrease in later-onset cases due primarily to screening, have shifted the median age at diagnosis from 72 years in the early 2000s to 66 years now.
As is happening around the country, there''s a significant increase in younger patients with colorectal cancer. "It''s important to recognize that most cases are without a known hereditary basis and have no identifiable cause," says Dr. Frank Sinicrope, an oncologist and gastroenterologist. The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
"Public health measures are required to address risk factors for colorectal cancer beginning in adolescence, according to Dr. Sinicrope." Although the specific reasons of early onset colorectal cancer remain elusive, experiments suggest that foods with high consumption of red and processed meat, refined grains and processed sugar can alter gut microbial composition, leading to chronic inflammation, increased obesity rates, and a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
"Evidence indicates that a plant-based diet and increased physical activity might aid in promoting a more stable gut microbiome, which in turn may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer," says Dr. Sinicrope.
He claims that ongoing research involving large cohorts and international consulates aim to identify early life exposures that are particularly beneficial to the development of early onset colorectal cancer.