The incidence of colorectal cancer affecting young adults increases worryingly, before the age of 50 year. Thus, it is estimated that a person aged from 18 to 35 years (born in the years 1990) is currently twice as likely to be affected by early colon cancer and four times as likely to be affected by rectal cancer than was a person of the same age born in 1950 .
Life habits and food hygiene in question
These early cancers are very surprising. Since colorectal cancer generally requires to 30 years to develop and reach an advanced, clinically detectable stage. To be diagnosed in people under the age of 30 years (and sometimes even younger), it is therefore necessary whether this cancer appeared abnormally early in the life of these people or even developed extremely rapidly following the appearance of the first precancerous lesion (polyp).
The vast majority (75%) of colorectal cancers are directly linked to lifestyle habits. While the contribution of genetic factors, transmitted by heredity, is less than 10%. The only way to explain the sudden increase in the incidence of early colorectal cancers is therefore that changes in lifestyle that have taken place over the past decades have created favorable conditions for the appearance and/or progression of cancer cells. in the colon.
500% increase in sugar consumption since 1974
One of the major changes that occurred after 1950 is the skyrocketing (500 %) consumption of sugary drinks (soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks) . Compared to previous generations, people born after 500 began to consume these drinks at a younger age and in larger quantities. For example, the caloric contribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to the diet of young people increased considerably between 1977 and 2001, going from 5 to % at the 19-39 years and from 5 to 10% in 2-13 year. This high intake of simple sugars is harmful to health. Indeed, it promotes the development of metabolic disorders (obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes) which increase the risk of several diseases, including cancer.
Sweetened beverages : main factor in young people
It also seems that the excessive consumption of sugary drinks could contribute to the increase in the incidence of early colorectal cancer observed in recent years. By analyzing the eating habits of 75 464 nurses aged from 25 to 42 years who participated in the Nurse Health Study II, researchers observed that women who drank 2 or more sugary drinks a day at the adulthood had a risk of developing early colorectal cancer twice as high as those who drank only rarely, less than once a week.
This increased risk is even worse if the habit of consuming sugary drinks was already present in adolescence (13-18 years), with an increase of 3 times the risk of cancer observed in women who drank more than 2 sugary drinks a day during this period.
Preventing colorectal cancer
To prevent colorectal cancer, it is therefore necessary to drastically reduce the consumption of soft drinks created, but also that of ultra-processed industrial foods in general. With their high fat, sugar and salt content, these products disrupt the metabolism and create conditions of chronic inflammation that greatly increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
Eat more vegetables and less red meats (especially less deli meats), stay lean and do regular physical activity at least 150 minutes per week , remain the pillars for preventing colorectal cancer, also in young adults.
Siegel RL et al. Colorectal cancer incidence patterns in the United States, 1977-2013. J. Natl Cancer Inst
Hur J et al. Sugar-sweetened beverage intake in adulthood and adolescence and risk of early-onset colorectal cancer among women. Gut
Tabung FK et al. Association of dietary inflammatory potential with colorectal cancer risk in men and women. JAMA Oncol.
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