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New Swedish study reports: Obese teens are twice as likely to develop bowel cancer

by , 29 May 2015

According to a new study published in Gut, a journal of The BMJ, teenagers who are very overweight or obese are more than twice as likely to develop bowel cancer by middle age.

Researchers followed nearly 240,000 Swedish males for 35 years to reach their findings. The World Cancer Research Fund commented on the findings saying the link between teenage obesity and bowel cancer is “strong”.

Bowel cancer (you might know it better as colorectal cancer) is the third most common cancer in the world. Almost 1.4 million new cases arise each year. If you have a son or daughter who's carrying extra weight, they're at great risk of developing this cancer. Read on for more.

The link between teenage obesity and bowel cancer

Past research has linked processed red meat and abdominal fat to bowel cancer. Who would’ve guessed that teenage obesity could pose a risk of developing it too?
Study participants were aged between 16 and 20 when researchers started the study. The overwhelming majority were a normal weight, but 6.5% were overweight and 1% obese. 
At the end of the study, researchers noted that 855 cases of bowel cancer arose. However, their results showed that it mainly affected overweight and obese participants.
More specifically, the results showed that obese participants were 2.38 times more likely to have developed a bowel tumour.
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Adolescence is a period of accelerated growth

Researchers report: Late adolescence marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s a period of accelerated growth, especially among men, thus this period may represent a critical window.”
“It’s important that we understand the role of exposures in childhood and adolescence in the development of colorectal cancer,” they add.
Rachel Thompson from the World Cancer Research Fund said these new findings are interesting. “It’s interesting because it gives an indication that bowel cancer risk might be affected by our lifestyle habits throughout the life course,” she said.
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