Experts are urging public health measures to address the risk factors that can cause colorectal cancer

Experts are urging public health measures to address the risk factors that can cause colorectal canc ...

According to a study article from Mayo Clinic researchers, early onset colorectal cancer, defined as being diagnosed when under 50, continues to steadily increase in the United States and other high-income countries. This increase, combined with a drop in later-onset cases due primarily to screening, have increased the median age at diagnosis from 72 years in the early 2000s to 66 years now.

As is happening around the country, the number of younger patients with colorectal cancer is significant. "It is important to recognize that most cases are without a known hereditary basis and have no identifiable cause," says Dr. Frank Sinicrope, a Minnesota oncologist and gastroenterologist. The article is published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Public health measures are necessary to address risk factors for colorectal cancer starting in adolescence, including poor dietary habits and physical inactivity," Dr. Sinicrope adds. Although the specific causes of early onset colorectal cancer remain elusive, studies suggest that diets with high intake of red and processed meat, refined grains and processed sugar may alter gut microbial composition, resulting in chronic inflammation, increased obesity rates, and a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

"Evidence suggests that a plant-based diet and more physical activity may help to promote a more beneficial gut microbiome, which in turn may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer," says Dr. Sinicrope.

According to him, ongoing research involving large cohorts and international consortia are aiming to identify early life exposures that are particularly relevant to the development of early onset colorectal cancer.

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