Women who are overweight or obese have up to twice the risk of developing colorectal cancer before age 50 as women who have what is considered a normal body mass index (BMI), according to new research led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
In the United States, overall rates of new colorectal cancer cases and deaths from the disease have decreased steadily since 1980, largely owing to recommended colonoscopy screening starting at age 50. For reasons that remain unknown, new cases of, and deaths due to, both colon and rectal cancers have been increasing for younger adults ages 20 to 49.
The study, published Oct. 11 in JAMA Oncology, is among the first epidemiologic analyses of the potential contributors to early-onset colorectal cancer – cases diagnosed under age 50. The researchers found that higher current BMI, BMI at 18 years of age, and weight gain since early adulthood are associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer under age 50.
The researchers included collaborators at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School. The study included data from 85,256 women ages 25 to 44 in
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