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Are sugar-sweetened beverages contributing to the rising occurrence of colorectal cancer in young adults?
  1. Neil Murphy1,
  2. Peter T Campbell2,
  3. Marc J Gunter1
  1. 1 Nutrition and Metabolism Branch, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France
  2. 2 Department of Population Science, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marc J Gunter, Section of Nutrition and Metabolism, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon 69008, France; gunterm{at}

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In contrast to falling or stabilising rates in older adults, the incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults (diagnosed prior to age 50 years; ‘early-onset colorectal cancer’) has increased over recent decades in many countries.1 2 In the USA and several other high-income countries, the incidence rates for early-onset colorectal cancer have risen across successive birth cohorts since the 1960s.3 This birth cohort effect suggests that secular changes in exposure to putative risk factors since this period may be driving the higher rates of colorectal cancer in younger adults.

Candidate risk factors that meet this criterion include the adoption of unhealthy dietary habits, such as higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks. In the USA, sugar-sweetened beverage consumption rose markedly for all ages between 1977 and 1996, including 70% and 83% increases for the 2–18 years old and 19–39 years old age groups, respectively.4 Previous epidemiological studies have generally found no evidence of an association between sugar-sweetened beverage intake and colorectal cancer. For example, a pooled analysis of 13 prospective cohort studies that examined the association between sugar-sweetened carbonated soft drink consumption and colon cancer, reported a relative risk of 0.94 (95% CI 0.66 to 1.32) …

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conceptualisation, writing and review of the editorial.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Disclaimer Where authors are identified as personnel of the International Agency for Research on Cancer/WHO, the authors alone are responsible for the views expressed in this article and they do not necessarily represent the decisions, policy or views of the International Agency for Research on Cancer/WHO.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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