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Colorectal Cancer Rates are Rising

Published by Connealy, MD on June 21, 2024


New data suggests that incidences of colorectal cancer are significantly increasing in children as young as 10:

A recent study presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2024 conference reported that colorectal cancer incidence in young individuals has risen from 1999 to 2020. The most notable increase was observed in those aged 10 to 24.

The high mortality rate of colon cancer, especially among younger age groups, is concerning and can have significant consequences for future generations.

Why are cancer rates rising?

Rates of all types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and lung cancers have been increasing among individuals under 40. One study published in the BMJ Oncology reported a nearly 80 percent increase in the last 50 years. 

These statistics challenge the traditional view of cancer. For decades, it has been believed to be primarily caused by faulty genes. However, our genes are not fundamentally different than they were 20 years ago. It’s implausible that a cancer-causing gene mutation could affect children across various regions in just 1-2 decades.

Many researchers admit they are unsure about the cause of this increase. However, a shift in disease incidence across generations suggests an environmental rather than genetic cause. 

An article published by the National Cancer Institute suggested that diet, gut bacteria, inflammation, and chemical exposure all could be playing a role.

To many oncologists, it’s clear that diet plays a large role in colorectal cancer. There have been a lot of changes in the last 50 years, and the foods that kids are eating today are not biologically sufficient. This issue begins in infancy with formula and continues into childhood with processed snacks and drinks. In addition, we are raising children much differently than previous generations. Many kids have light dysregulation from technology use, spend far less time outside, are exposed to high stress and high levels of toxins.

What we can do: 

The emerging statistics are startling. We can no longer assume that younger individuals will always enjoy good health like previous generations.

While these problems are complex, I am optimistic that this trend can be prevented. As we learn, we have the ability to adapt and ensure a healthier world for the generations after us. This is because children eat and live the same way their parents do. We should always strive to lead by example and hold a standard of excellence when it comes to our children. 

As parents we have the opportunity to optimize our children’s environment, lifestyle, and diet – the most important factors in supporting a healthy body. There are no shortcuts when it comes to raising kids, and optimizing their health is extremely important for our future. We should aim to control what we can in the details: The snacks, the laughs, the activities. It all matters.

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