MAY 20, 2021 10:40 AM PDT

High red meat consumption and low education level associated with early-onset colorectal cancer

Research published recently in JNCI Cancer Spectrum reports that higher red meat and alcohol consumption, as well as lower educational level, are associated with an increase in colorectal cancer in people under 50. As the rise of early-onset colorectal cancer (which refers to people under 50 diagnosed with the disease) continues climbing, bringing with it poorer outcomes for younger patients, understanding the risk factors at play is more important than ever. 

Given a particular observation of the rise in early-onset colorectal cancer in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan, senior investigator on the study Richard Hayes says it begs the question: Why? Hayes comments: “This first large-scale study of non-genetic risk factors for early-onset colorectal cancer is providing the initial basis for targeted identification of those most at risk, which is imperative in mitigating the rising burden of this disease."

Hayes and his colleagues analyzed data from 13 population-based studies that included 3,767 colorectal cancer cases and 4,049 controls in people under 50 and 23,437 colorectal cancer cases and 35,311 controls in people 50 or above years. They concluded that certain non-genetic factors are associated with a risk for early-onset colorectal cancer, including greater red meat intake, lower educational attainment, heavier alcohol use, not regularly using aspirins, and surprisingly, alcohol abstinence. 

Given the upsetting rise of early-onset colorectal cancer, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recently recommended that individuals with an average risk of colorectal cancer should now receive screening for the disease starting at age 45 instead of 50. 

Sources: JNCI Cancer Spectrum, Eureka Alert

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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