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Why are rates of colorectal cancer increasing?

It’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the rates of colorectal cancer have been increasing in recent years for several reasons, and there isn’t just one single cause for this trend. Instead, multiple factors contribute to the rise in the incidence of colorectal cancer. Some of the primary reasons include:

Ageing Population

Colorectal cancer is more common in older adults, and as the population ages, there is a higher prevalence of this disease. With improvements in healthcare and longer life expectancy, the proportion of older individuals in the population is increasing, leading to a higher incidence of colorectal cancer.

Obesity and Sedentary Lifestyle

Poor dietary habits, a high intake of processed foods, and sedentary lifestyles are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The prevalence of obesity has been rising globally, along with changes in dietary patterns and decreased physical activity levels, contributing to the higher incidence of colorectal cancer.

Unhealthy Diet

Diets high in red and processed meats, as well as low in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, have been linked to an elevated risk of colorectal cancer. The adoption of Western dietary patterns in many parts of the world, characterized by high consumption of red meat, sugary beverages, and processed foods, may be contributing to the increasing rates of colorectal cancer.

Smoking and Alcohol Consumption

Tobacco smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have been identified as risk factors for colorectal cancer. Despite efforts to reduce smoking rates, tobacco use remains prevalent in many populations, contributing to the incidence of colorectal cancer.

Changes in Screening Practices

Colorectal polyps and early-stage cancers are found more often now that more people know about and can get colorectal cancer screening tests like colonoscopies and fecal occult blood tests. While this has contributed to a decrease in mortality from colorectal cancer, it may also lead to an apparent increase in incidence due to the detection of more cases.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as exposure to pollution, industrial chemicals, and other carcinogens, may also play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. However, the specific impact of these factors on colorectal cancer incidence is still being studied.

Genetic Factors

While most cases of colorectal cancer are sporadic, a small proportion can be attributed to inherited genetic mutations that predispose individuals to the disease. As genetic testing becomes more common and affordable, more people are being identified as having genetic predispositions to colorectal cancer.

Overall, the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer is likely due to a combination of these factors, highlighting the importance of public health initiatives focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging regular screening, and improving access to healthcare services for early detection and treatment.