Colon cancer cases surge in young people.

Colon cancer is on the rise among young people under the age of 50, say experts. Lifestyle habits like unhealthy diets and lack of exercise are to be blamed.

Daphne Clarance, India Today, Mar 13, 2024

Doctors have witnessed a spike in colon cancer cases among younger populations in India. A 2023 study by the Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI) found that the occurrence of colon cancer is shifting to young adults in the age group of 31 to 40 years. In contrast, earlier it affected older people above the age of 50.

Colon cancer, also called colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine or rectum. It is a highly treatable and often curable disease when localised to the bowel.

"Colorectal cancer is on the rise among young adults under 50 years of age. This is because of factors like obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking. Genetic conditions such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis raise the risk but only 10 to 20% of early-onset cancers are caused by inherited factors," said Dr Amruth Raj C, Consultant GI, HPB and Liver Transplant Surgeon, Medicover Hospitals, Navi Mumbai.

An unhealthy diet high in processed meat and fat, and low in fruits and vegetables leads to colorectal cancer at an early age, the expert added.

"Gut bacteria are affected by the food we eat and drink. Studies have shown that diet, obesity, and some drugs can change the bacteria in the gut. Change in the gut microbiome can lead to inflammation which can help cancer to grow," Dr Amruth Raj C told IndiaToday.In.

Dr Ganesh Nagarajan said that colon cancer can often go unnoticed in its early stages due to a lack of obvious symptoms.

"However, some common signs to watch out for include persistent changes in bowel habits such as diarrhoea or constipation, abdominal pain or cramping that doesn't go away, unexplained weight loss, and blood in the stool. Studies have shown an association between the development of colorectal cancer and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis," said Dr Ganesh Nagarajan, Director of Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Gastrointestinal Oncology, Nanavati Max Institute of Cancer Care.

One key factor is lifestyle choices, including poor diet, processed foods, lack of fibre in diet and inactivity, which can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer at a younger age.

"The rise in obesity rates among young people also plays a significant role. Research suggests that excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, can promote inflammation and insulin resistance, creating an environment conducive to cancer cell growth," added Dr Nagarajan.

Another important factor is genetic predisposition. While older individuals often develop colorectal cancer due to accumulated genetic mutations over time, younger people may have inherited genetic mutations.

Alcohol consumption, diabetes, and environmental factors such as exposure to certain toxins or pollution may also contribute to the development of the disease.

The treatment plan will differ from one individual to another and will be decided by the treating doctor. It is essential to follow the guidelines given by the doctor for tackling cancer and improving the quality of life.

However, raising awareness and adhering to preventive measures is the need of the hour.

Dr Amruth Raj said that early detection through regular screenings and encouraging lifestyle modifications such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and avoiding processed foods reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in young people.

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