Reported by Kimmie Ng, M.D., a Boston oncologist; this trend is concerning as many young men being diagnosed with colorectal cancer are leading active lifestyles and do not have the typically high-risk factors associated with this disease. Most are cross-fitters, attend gym regularly and /or leading active lives.
What has Changed with Colon Cancer in Young Adults?
An American Cancer Society (ACS) funded study in 2017 reported that people born around the 1990’s have double the risk of developing colon cancer and quadruple the risk of developing rectal cancer compared with those born around 1950.
If this trend continues the rates of colon cancer will rise by 90%; and the rates of rectal cancer by 124% by 2030.
The age of screening for colorectal cancer has now been lowered in the US on recommendation by the ASC from 50 years to 45 years.
Further to these staggering statistics on growth rates of colorectal cancers in younger men; is the observation that these early onset cancers have distinctly different features. In younger men these cancers are starting in different places and mutating differently. This indicates that these cancers are forming for new reasons and different therapies are required to treat these cancers.
What is Driving this Change?
Research examining the reasons behind this change in early onset colorectal cancers suggest that changes (or disruption) to the microbiome in the gut is the most likely cause.
The Gut Microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms that live in the intestinal tract. These microorganisms consist mainly of bacteria and are involved in many critical functions in your health and wellbeing.
Changes to this microbiome in the younger population are thought to be impacting colorectal cancers. The cause of this disruption to microbiome is believed to be a result of dietary changes and the increased use of antibiotics that kill off the bacteria in the gut.
Increased sugar consumption has been a dietary change thought to be linked to this staggering rise in colorectal cancers. High sugar consumption (and other processed carbohydrates) decreases the number of good bacteria in the gut. Sugar consumption (including high fructose corn syrup) also increases inflammation in the body – a known causation to cancer.
How to Reduce your Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
Further research is still being conducted on the mechanisms driving this increase in early onset colorectal cancer. Lifestyle changes including dietary changes however are seen to be the most important changes you can make to reduce your risk.
Reducing sugar and ‘added sugar’ is critical to maintaining good gut health and reducing inflammation. The modern western diet is loaded with sugar and processed carbohydrates which must be avoided to reduce your risk of cancer.
Minimizing your use of antibiotics is also necessary to maintain good bacteria in your gut. Western medicine has increased the use of antibiotic prescription which is causing untold damage to your gut health. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria in your gut. These bacteria play a vital role in your overall health and wellbeing.