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More than half of Americans don’t know drinking increases risk of colon, rectal cancer

Story at a glance


  • A new survey from The Ohio State University found that more than half of Americans don’t know alcohol consumption can contribute to colorectal cancer.


  • The survey also found that many Americans don’t know that diet, obesity and lack of exercise are also risk factors for this type of cancer.


  • While the overall rate of colorectal cancer is declining, rates of the disease are rising among Americans 50 and younger.


Colorectal cancer cases are rising in the U.S., and many Americans don’t know the risk factors.

Slightly more than half of Americans—51 percent—did not know that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for colon or rectal cancer, according to a new 1,000-person survey from The Ohio State University.

According to the survey, 42 percent of adults did not know lack of exercise may contribute to these types of cancer and 38 and 37 percent did not know obesity and poor diet are also risk factors.

Black and Hispanic Americans were less likely to know about the risk factors for colon and rectal cancers than white Americans, according to the survey.

Overall cases of colorectal cancer have declined over the last three decades, but the number of cases are rising among Americans under 50 and it’s unclear why.

Data released by the American Cancer Society in 2023 show that rates of colorectal cancer among adults 55 and younger nearly doubled—from 11 percent to 20—between 1995 and 2019.

“It’s important for people to understand that many factors contribute to colorectal cancer risk, and it is never too late to make changes to help reduce risk where you have the power to do so,” said Matthew Kalady, chief of colorectal surgery at The Ohio State University.

“Those changes won’t just impact your cancer risk, they will likely improve your health overall.”

He recommends eating a diet high in fiber, low in fat and red meat as well as four to six servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Due to the increasing rates of colorectal cancer among younger adults, the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force lowered the age adults should begin getting screened for colon and rectal cancer from 50 to 45. in 2021.

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