Obesity could be playing a role in rising rates of bowel cancer in women under 50, a study suggests.
Bowel cancer cases among UK women aged 25 to 44 have increased by 73% over the past 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK.
Researchers in the US found that obesity was linked to a higher risk of developing bowel cancer in women younger than 50.
The study, published in JAMA Oncology by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, followed 85,256 women over an average of 14 years, using body mass index (BMI) as an indicator of obesity.
There were 114 cases of early onset bowel cancer among the women in the study, and obesity – as judged by a BMI over 30 – was linked to a higher risk of developing the disease.
A higher BMI at the age of 18 and weight gain of more than 40 kg since early adulthood were also both linked to an increased risk of early onset bowel cancer.
Katie Patrick, Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, said more needs to be done to help reduce bowel cancer risk at any age.
“As well as keeping a healthy weight, there are lots of other ways to reduce bowel cancer risk, such as not smoking, eating plenty of foods high in fibre and cutting down on alcohol and processed and red meat,” she added.