early onset colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer has always been associated with older patients. However, over the past decade there has been a significant increase in the number of young people being diagnosed with the condition.

While the risk of developing colorectal cancer does increase as you age, more and more young people are experiencing an early onset of the disease. So, what is driving the rise in early onset colorectal cancer?

Here, we will look at some of the factors that could be behind the rise.

What does the research say?

Research into the early onset of colorectal cancer has revealed startling statistics. In 2015, researchers from MD Anderson discovered that by 2030, there would be a dramatic 90% rise in colorectal cancer, and a 124% rise in rectal cancer in patients under 35.

This research was further backed up by an additional study in 2019. Researchers from the American Cancer Society carried out a global analysis that confirmed a trend in younger patients developing colorectal cancer. A total of 19 countries, including the U.S, reported increasing rates of colorectal cancer in younger patients.

While the research so far does reveal a worrying rise in cancer cases in younger patients, it doesn’t determine why this might be. So, what could be the driving factors behind the problem?

Could the problem be our diet?

Some experts believe our diets could be playing a role. Specifically, consuming high levels of processed foods and beverages that contain high-fructose corn syrup. Research carried out on mice has shown that high-fructose corn syrup caused them to develop more aggressive and faster growing colon tumours compared to those who drank water.

Diets high in sulphur could also be an issue. Sulphur, commonly found in processed meats, is known to change the microbiome within the body. This in turn increases the risk of early onset colorectal cancer.

Research into how the microbiome increases the risk of colorectal cancer has revealed a dental plaque could be to blame. The Fusobacterium nucleatum can travel down to the right side of your colon. From there it will continue to travel alongside the tumour while it metastasizes.

These are just a couple of theories why younger patients might be developing colorectal cancer at increasingly alarming rates. However, further research is required to determine the full cause.

Why early screening is crucial

While it is concerning that younger patients are developing colorectal cancer, treatments can be highly successful. Provided the cancer is detected early, survival rates are high.

Seeking early screening isn’t always easy as they are typically reserved for older patients. However, if you are concerned about your risk, you can ask to be referred for a test. This is typically done via a colonoscopy.