What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

Several non-genetic factors can affect colorectal cancer risk, study finds

(RxWiki News) Several non-genetic factors may increase your risk for colorectal cancer.

That's the key finding of a new study that looked at more than 27,000 people who had colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer has become more common in people younger than age 50 in recent years, the authors of this study noted. Early-onset cases nearly doubled in the US between 1992 and 2013. This has health experts concerned because cases in younger people often have worse outcomes.

This study sought to identify the factors that could be tied to colorectal cancer risk at a younger age. The researchers wanted to look at factors that were not related to genetics.

After studying a group of 3,767 under-50 patients and 23,437 over-50 patients with colon cancer (as well as thousands of control patients who did not have cancer), the study authors pinpointed several key factors that appear to be tied to a higher colorectal cancer risk in people younger than 50:

  • Eating more red meat
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Lower educational attainment

Other factors that may be linked to colorectal cancer in younger people were complete alcohol abstinence, not routinely taking aspirin, a history of diabetes and low folate, fiber and calcium intake. Smoking and higher body mass index (BMI) were linked to colorectal cancer in older patients but not younger ones.

It is important to note that the above factors appeared to be linked to colorectal cancer risk, but the study did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between these factors and cancer.

Never make any changes to your diet, medication or exercise habits without first speaking with your health care provider.

This study was published in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services and several other government agencies funded this research. The authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
May 23, 2021