The incidence of colorectal cancer affecting young adults increases alarmingly before the age of 50 years. Thus, it is estimated that a person between the ages of 20 and 30 (born in the 1990s) currently has twice the risk of early colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer than a person of the same age born in 1950.
Lifestyle and food hygiene in question
These early cancers are very surprising. Since colorectal cancer generally requires 10 to 35 years to develop and reach a clinically detectable advanced stage. To be diagnosed in people younger than 50 (and sometimes even younger), this cancer must have appeared abnormally early in these people’s lives or developed extremely quickly after the appearance of the first precancerous lesion (polyp).
The vast majority (75%) of colorectal cancers are directly related to lifestyle habits. While the contribution of genetic factors, transmitted by inheritance, is less than 10%. The only way to explain the sudden increase in the incidence of early colorectal cancers is, therefore, that the changes in lifestyle that have occurred in recent decades have created favorable conditions for the appearance and/or progression of the colon cancer cells. .
500% increase in sugar consumption since 1950
One of the great changes that occurred after 1950 was the vertiginous increase (500%) in the consumption of sugary drinks (soft drinks, isotonic drinks, energy drinks). Compared to previous generations, people born after 1950 began consuming these beverages at a younger age and in larger amounts. For example, the caloric contribution of sugary drinks to the diet of young people increased considerably between 1977 and 2001, from 5 to 12% between 19-39 years and from 5 to 10% between 2-18 years. This high consumption of simple sugars is detrimental to health. In fact, it promotes the development of metabolic disorders (obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes) that increase the risk of various diseases, including cancer.
Sugary drinks: main factor among 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. Analyzing the eating habits of 95,464 nurses ages 25 to 42 who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, researchers found that women who drank 2 or more sugar-sweetened beverages a day as adults were at increased risk of developing cancer early colorectal twice as high as those who drank 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), observing a 3-fold increase in cancer risk in women who drank more than 2 sugary drinks a day during this period. period.
Prevent colorectal cancer
To prevent colorectal cancer, it is therefore necessary to drastically reduce the consumption of sugary drinks, but also that of ultra-processed industrial foods in general. With their high fat, sugar, and salt content, these products throw your metabolism off balance and create conditions of chronic inflammation that greatly increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
Eating more vegetables and less red meat (especially less cold cuts), staying slim, and getting regular physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week remain the cornerstones of preventing colorectal cancer, including in young adults.
Siegel RL et al. Colorectal cancer incidence patterns in the United States, 1974-2013. National Cancer Institute J.
Hur J et al. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages in adulthood and adolescence and the risk of early-onset colorectal cancer among women. intestine
Tabung FK et al. Association of the inflammatory potential of the diet with the risk of colorectal cancer in men and women. JAMA Oncol.
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