January 14, 2020
2 min read

Weight loss may be an early clinical sign of early-onset CRC

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Samir Gupta

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, identified several factors, including increasing age and male sex, as potential risk factors for early-onset colorectal cancer, according to study results.

Additionally, they found that weight loss may signal risk for developing the cancer.

Although incidence of early-onset CRC is on the rise, Samir Gupta, MD, MSCS, AGAF, of Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego, told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease that risk factors associated with it have not been widely studied.

Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in the general population are decreasing,” he said. “However, rates of early onset colorectal cancer before age 50 years – the age most commonly recommended to initiate screening – are rising. Young adults with colorectal cancer present with higher stage of disease and have worse outcomes than those who present at an older age.”

Researchers conducted a case-control study of veterans in the United States aged between 18 and 49 years who underwent colonoscopy between 1999 and 2014. They identified cases of early-onset CRC from a national cancer registry (n = 651) and matched them with veterans who were free of CRC at baseline and through 3 years of follow up (n = 67,416).

Gupta and colleagues found that the early CRC group had higher proportions of individuals who were older, male, current smokers, non-aspirin users and had lower BMIs, compared with the control group (P < .05). In their analysis, researchers determined that increasing age and male sex were associated with increased risk for early-onset CRC, while aspirin use and overweight or obesity were associated with decreased odds of early-onset CRC.

Additionally, investigators found that weight loss of at least 5 kg withing the 5-year period before colonoscopy was associated with higher odds of early-onset CRC (OR = 2.23; 95% CI, 1.76-2.83).

“We found increasing age and male sex to be significantly associated with increased risk of early onset colorectal cancer, and aspirin use to be significantly associated with decreased risk,” Gupta said. “Similar findings have been observed for colorectal cancer cases above age 50. We also found that weight loss might be an early clinical sign of early onset colorectal cancer, which might be used to flag individuals at increased risk. In general, more studies are needed to identify features that can be used to identify individuals at highest risk for colorectal cancer.” – by Alex Young

Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.