According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.80 million cancer cases in 2018 were from people with colorectal cancer (which includes cancers of the colon and rectum), being one of the most common causes of cancer death.
In the past years, the number of younger adults (people with less than 50 years old) with the disease has been increasing, and some analysts estimate that the risk among millennials is, approximately, 2 to 4 times higher than their grandparents. This means that there are health behaviors and environmental
factors that are impacting the increase of numbers.
As scientists discussed in an event organized by NCI and NIEHS, the main priority is to identify the risk factors that are leading to the emerging of younger adult’s cases, especially because young people tend to be diagnosed at later stages.
In their discussion three main risk factors were presented – diet, bacteria in the gut and inflammation.
Regarding diet, several studies showed that overweight can increase the chance of having colorectal cancer, and we can see the increase of overweight young people in the past years.
The bacteria in the gut are also another possible factor, as it may affect the effectiveness of the cancer treatment. However, gut bacteria are affected by the food people eat, because It can change the type of bacteria in the gut, so this is related with the previous factor discussed.
Another factor is inflammation, because bacteria in the gut block immune cells that fight cancer, which can intensify inflammation due to the bacterial toxins. Furthermore, some conditions can also increase inflammation, as diabetes or Crohn’s disease.
In addition, is also important to understand the environment factors, as it can expose people to many chemicals that will interact with their genetic.
However, beyond the research about what is causing these numbers, is also important to identify the disease at early stages. A common prevention treatment is screening but usually It is used for people over 50. For young adults, this treatment is not that common, as it is costly and invasive. There have been done some research about alternatives to this technique, as the Epi proColon, a bloodbased test, however, are necessary more results to come to more concrete
So, if we can have a clear vision about the main factors that are contributing for the growth of cases in young adults, we can have more clear approaches to prevent the disease.
‘Why Is Colorectal Cancer Rising Rapidly among Young Adults? by the National Cancer Institute