Colon and rectal cancers are the third leading cause of death from cancer in men and women, or the second leading cause if you combine the two. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there will be 149,500 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2021.
Experts expect 52,982 to die in 2021 from colorectal cancer.
Although colorectal cancer numbers have been dropping in older adults for the past couple decades because of increased testing and lifestyle changes, scientists believe that this downward trend is masking a rising number of younger adults who are being diagnosed with it.
In a paper published by the ACS in 2017, researchers looked at incident patterns from 1974 to 2013.
They wrote that “nearly one-third of rectal cancer patients are younger than age 55 years,” which fueled headlines and recommendations that younger people should consider colon cancer screening.
In this study, a team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, used data from the national Nurses’ Health Study II to evaluate the relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and the increasing number of individuals younger than 55 diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
There were 95,464 women aged 25 to 42 who reported their beverage intake from 1991 to 2015. They also examined data from a subset of 41,272 nurses who used a validated high school food frequency questionnaire to report their beverage intake when they were aged 13 to 18.
During the 24-year prospective study, the researchers documented 109 early-onset colorectal cancers in the group.
After analyzing the data, they found that individuals who drank two or more 8-ounce servings each week of a sugar-sweetened beverage more than doubled their risk of diagnosis as compared to people who drank less than one sugar-sweetened beverage each week.
The results also appeared to show that the earlier individuals began drinking sugar-sweetened drinks, the higher the risk of early-onset colorectal cancer.
In adults, with every additional 8-ounce beverage they drank each week, it increased their risk 16%.
However, in the adolescent group, for every additional sugar-sweetened drink each week, their risk of developing the cancer before age 50 rose by 32%.
The data also showed that when individuals replaced one sugar-sweetened drink with coffee, tea or artificially sweetened beverages, their risk reduced from 17% to 36%.
However, there are additional and dangerous health risks outside of colorectal cancer that are associated with artificial sweeteners.