Colorectal cancer diagnoses have increased in people under the age of 50 in recent years and researchers are investigating why. A new study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found a link between the consumption of sugary drinks and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer in women under the age of 50. 13 to 18 years) and adulthood can increase the risk of disease.
The study, published online May 6 in the journal Intestine, further supports public health efforts that encourage people to reduce the amount of sugar they consume.
“Colorectal cancer in young adults remains relatively rare, but the fact that rates have increased over the past three decades – and we don’t understand why – is a major public health problem and a priority in cancer prevention.” said lead author Yin Cao, ScD, associate professor of surgery and medicine in the Division of Public Health Sciences at the University of Washington. “Due to the increase in colorectal cancer in younger people, the average age of colorectal cancer diagnosis has increased from 72 to 66 years. These cancers are more advanced at the time of diagnosis and have different characteristics compared to cancers of older populations.
“Our lab is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network to identify risk factors, molecular landscapes, and precision screening strategies for these cancers so that they can be detected earlier and even avoided, ”said Cao, who also has a master’s degree in public health. “In previous work, we have shown that poor diet quality is associated with an increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer precursors, but we have not previously looked at specific nutrients or foods.”
Compared to women who drank less than an 8-ounce serving per week of sugary drinks, those who drank two or more servings per day had just over twice the risk of developing early-onset colorectal cancer, which means that he was diagnosed before the age of 50. The researchers calculated a 16% increase in risk for each 8-ounce serving per day. And from age 13 to 18, an important time for growth and development, each daily serving was linked to a 32% increased risk of possibly developing colorectal cancer before the age of 50.
Consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to metabolic health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, including in children. But it is less known whether these high-sugar drinks could have a role in the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer in young people. Similar to rates of early-onset colorectal cancer, consumption of these drinks has increased over the past 20 years, with the highest level of consumption seen among adolescents and young adults aged 20 to 34.
Researchers analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, a large population study that tracked the health of nearly 116,500 nurses from 1991 to 2015. Every four years, participants responded to surveys that included questions on diet, including the types and estimated amounts of drinks they drank. Of the total participants, more than 41,000 were also asked to remember their drinking habits during their teenage years.
The researchers identified 109 diagnoses of early-onset colorectal cancer among the nearly 116,500 participants.
“Despite the small number of cases, there is still a strong signal to suggest that sugar consumption, especially early in life, plays a role in increasing the risk of colorectal cancer in adulthood before pregnancy. age 50, ”said Cao, also a research fellow. from the Siteman Cancer Center. “This study, combined with our previous work linking obesity and metabolic conditions to a higher risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, suggests that metabolic problems, such as insulin resistance, may play an important role in the development of this cancer in young adults. “
In light of rising rates, the American Cancer Society recently lowered the recommended age for a first screening colonoscopy to 45, from 50 years previously for those at average risk. Those with additional risk factors, such as a family history of the disease, should start even earlier, according to the guidelines.
Since the study only included nurses, most of whom were Caucasian, more work is needed to examine this link in people of more diverse races, ethnicities and genders.
While sugary drinks were linked to an increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer, certain other drinks – including milk and coffee – were associated with a decreased risk. This observational study cannot show that drinking sugary drinks causes this type of cancer or that drinking milk or coffee is protective, but the researchers said that replacing sugary drinks with unsweetened drinks, such as milk and coffee, is a better choice for a long time. term health.
“Given this data, we recommend that people avoid sugary drinks and instead choose drinks like milk and coffee without sweeteners,” Cao said.
Study co-authors include Ebunoluwa Otegbeye, MD, a general surgery resident at the University of Washington working in the Cao lab. Otegbeye is supported by the Basic Sciences and Translational Research Training Program in Surgical Oncology. Collaborators include researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant numbers U01 CA176726, R01 CA205406, R21 CA230873, R01 CA151993, R35 CA197735, R35 CA253185, R03 CA197879, R21 CA222940, R37 CA246175, K07 and T21837 the Ministry of Defense, grant number CA160344; the Project P Fund; the Stuart and Suzanne Steele MGH Fellowship; and a grant initiated by a researcher from the American Institute for Cancer Research.