Younger, Inactive People at Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer

By Sara Bondell - March 15, 2019

You may want to think twice before you sit down to binge watch your favorite television show. For the first time ever, a scientific study has linked sedentary behavior to a rise in colorectal cancer in those under age 50.

The study looked at TV viewing and other sedentary behavior in almost 90,000 American women ages 25 to 42 and found that more than one hour of daily TV watching was associated with a 12 percent risk in colorectal cancer. Watching more than two hours per day led to a 70 percent increase in risk.

Dr. Julian Sanchez, colorectal cancer surgeon

Early-onset colorectal cancer, which occurs in patients under age 50, is increasing across the United States and internationally. It’s also a trend colorectal cancer surgeon Dr. Julian Sanchez says he is seeing at Moffitt Cancer Center.

“From all the recent data on this topic, it seems that the younger generation is more obese and less active,” Sanchez said. “What that means is that these patients have a more sedentary lifestyle. All of these issues have been directly correlated with colorectal cancer as with many other cancers as well.”

Another study found rising rates for six different types of cancer among young adults, including colorectal, endometrial and kidney, tied to obesity. In some types of cancer, people born in 1980 to 1989 had double the rate of risk at the same age compared with those born in 1946 to 1954.

“You can argue genetics hasn’t played a large role because it’s been one generation, so it’s mostly going to due to environmental factors like smoking, obesity, alcohol and diet,” said Sanchez.

Early onset colorectal cancer is typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage, with more aggressive tumors. This has caused updated guidelines from the American Cancer Society advising that average-risk screening begins at 45 years old, rather than 50.

Sanchez says his best advice to reduce your cancer risk is to get moving. “Be more active. It’s really easy in our modern society to sit behind a desk all day then go home and sit on a couch all evening and we aren’t walking as much or being as active as we should be.”

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer More Articles


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