Risk factors for young-onset colorectal cancer

Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Feb;24(2):335-41. doi: 10.1007/s10552-012-0119-3. Epub 2012 Dec 8.


Purpose: We investigated risk factors for colorectal cancer in early-onset cancers, to provide quantitative estimates for major selected risk factors.

Methods: We analyzed data from three Italian and Swiss case-control studies conducted between 1985 and 2009, including 329 colorectal cancer cases and 1,361 controls aged ≤45 years. We computed odds ratios (ORs) from unconditional logistic regression models, adjusted for major confounding factors.

Results: The OR of young-onset colorectal cancer was 4.50 for family history of colorectal cancer in first-degree relatives, the association being higher in subjects with affected siblings (OR 11.68) than parents (OR 3.75). The ORs of young-onset colorectal cancer were 1.56 for ≥14 drinks/week of alcohol, 1.56 for the highest tertile of processed meat, 0.40 for vegetables, 0.75 for fruit, and 0.78 for fish intake. Among micronutrients, the ORs were 0.52 for β-carotene, 0.68 for vitamin C, 0.38 for vitamin E, and 0.59 for folate. No significant associations emerged for physical activity, overweight, and diabetes.

Conclusions: This study-the largest on young-onset colorectal cancer-confirms that several recognized risk factors for colorectal cancer are also relevant determinants of young-onset colorectal cancer. Family history of colorectal cancer in particular is a stronger risk factor in young subjects, as compared to middle age and elderly ones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Switzerland / epidemiology