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2 Common Dietary Habits Are Causing Colon Cancer in Young People, Researchers Say

Research suggests eliminating high-inflammatory foods from your diet.

The status of your health can change at the drop of a hat, as evident in the unsettling rise in early-onset cancer diagnoses among young people. According to UC Davis Health, colorectal cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in adults under 50 years old. The demographic shift in colon cancer patients has many researchers studying how certain environmental factors, including diet, could be to blame—and new research may have pinpointed specific factors.

RELATED: 36-Year-Old Colon Cancer Patient Shares "Very Confusing" First Symptom.

Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or rectum, both of which make up the large intestine, which is considered a crucial part of the digestive system, per the American Cancer Society. When the cancer is present, polyps or growths are typically found on the inner lining of the colon, a muscular tube that measures about five feet long.

Polyps aren't always cancerous, but a benign growth can develop into colon cancer later on. Factors like a history of abnormalities, genetics, and the number and size of polyps found can influence someone's risk of getting colon cancer, explains the organization.

Even still, that doesn't explain why colon cancer is showing up in young people at an alarming rate. While presenting at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), researchers at the Ohio State University (OSU) revealed that the "Western diet" could be the key culprit.

The Western diet is deeply rooted in pre-packaged foods, red meat, processed meat, high-sugar drinks and foods, fried foods, high-fat dairy products, and high-fructose products, explains a study published in the journal Nutrients. In other words, it's a diet lacking fruits, veggies, and fiber.

If you've ever enjoyed a scrumptious fast food feast or eaten one too many Halloween candies, you know a diet driven by junk food isn't exactly the most fulfilling. Well, OSU scientists claim that a diet riddled with fat and low in fiber can trigger serious changes in the gut biome and, in some cases, make cells more susceptible to developing colon cancer.

"A high-fat, low-fiber diet has been associated with intestinal dysbiosis, which disrupts intestinal bacterial homeostasis. An increased inflammation state characterizes dysbiosis and may promote an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) and suppress antitumor immune surveillance," according to their findings.

RELATED: New $3 Blood Test Is "Groundbreaking" in Detecting Cancer, Doctors Say.

It goes without saying that a diet high in fat and sugar isn't nourishing, and just as these foods can negatively affect our mood and skin, they can also wreck our biological clock.

During their research, the OSU scientists discovered that early-onset colon cancer patients "were 15 years older on average than their chronological ages." Your chronological age is how many days you've been on Earth, while your biological span refers to your age on the inside. The latter is determined by your cells, tissues, and organs, which are heavily influenced by genetics, diet, exercise, and sleep.

Naturally, the easiest course correction would be to adopt healthy eating habits that don't fall under the Western diet umbrella, such as eating more fiber and fewer high-fat foods.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that you should be consuming 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories of food. "Some of the best sources of dietary fiber include: beans and peas, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts," per the agency's website.

Consider speaking to your doctor about fiber supplements or other healthy alternatives if you're struggling to get your gut back on track.

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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