Obese Young Women Could Be At Increased Risk Of Colorectal Cancer

A woman sits at the edge of the beach.
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Findings of a new research have found an association between obesity and increased risk for colorectal cancer in young women.

The rate of colorectal cancer has been increasing in people below 50-years-old, and declining in older people.

A 2017 study conducted by the American Cancer Society showed that the incidence rates of colon cancer in adults between 20- and 39-year- old have increased by 1 percent to 2 percent per year between the mid-1990s to 2013.

Incidents of rectal cancer also increased by about 3 percent per year from 1974 to 2013 in this age group.

Rates of colon cancer in adults between 40- and 54-years-old, on the other hand, increased by only 0.5 percent to 1 percent per year from the mid-1990s through 2013. Colorectal cancer increased by 2 percent per year from the 1990s to 2013.

A new observational study now hints at why more young people are diagnosed and are dying from the disease.

According to Vox, the prevalence of obesity has doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980. Thirty-nine percent of adults are now considered obese.

The rising rates of obesity could explain the increasing rates of colorectal cancer, at least in young women.

An overweight woman walks along Times Square.
  Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The study, which was published in JAMA Oncology, found a link between colon cancer risk and the BMI of young women.

Study author Yin Cao, from Washington University School of Medicine, and colleagues, tracked the health of more than 85,000 women for a period of 22 years, starting from when they were 25-years-old until they were 42-years-old.

The researchers found that women with a higher body mass index had greater risk for early-onset colorectal cancer. Compared with women with normal weight, obese women had 93 percent higher odds for the disease.

Weight gain from age 18 was also linked to colorectal cancer. Women who gained 44 to 88 pounds had 65 percent higher risk for colorectal cancer than their peers who gained 10 pounds of less. Those who gained more than 88 pounds more than doubled their risk.

“The findings suggest that obesity is associated with an increased risk of early-onset colorectal cancer; further investigations are needed to identify whether this association is causal,” the researchers wrote in their study.

Colorectal cancer is a deadly disease. One of the challenges with treating colorectal cancer is that it does not always cause detectable symptoms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the condition is the second top cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.