Red meat isn't the only thing that increases your risk of cancer as, according to new research, low educational attainment is also a factor.
The study, which is from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) Cancer Spectrum and published by Oxford University Press, indicates that several non-genetic factors - including greater red meat intake, lower educational attainment, and alcohol use, are associated with an increase in colorectal cancer in people under 50.
The researchers used data pooled from 13 population-based studies taking in 3,767 colorectal cancer cases and 4,049 controls in people under 50, compared to 23,437 colorectal cancer cases and 35,311 controls in those aged over 50.
They discovered that early-onset colorectal cancer was also associated with not regularly using aspirins, heavier alcohol use as well as alcohol abstinence, while lower total fibre intake was linked more strongly to rectal than colon cancer.
There were also other risk factors that trended toward an association with early-onset colorectal cancer, such as a history of diabetes and lower folate, dietary fibre, and calcium intake.
They discovered that neither body mass index or smoking were risk factors in the early-onset group, which is in contrast to the late-onset group.
Richard Hayes, the senior investigator for this research, said, "This first large-scale study of non-genetic risk factors for early-onset colorectal cancer is providing the initial basis for targeted identification of those most at risk, which is imperative in mitigating the rising burden of this disease."
Researchers have noticed a rise in incidence rates of early-onset colorectal cancer particularly among people born since the 1960s in studies from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. During this time, diets changed to include more red meat and fewer fruits, non-potato vegetables, and calcium-rich dairy sources, as well as processed foods.
The increase in early-onset colorectal cancer is concerning to scientists because these cancers often have worse outcomes than those diagnosed among older people.
As a result, they are advising healthcare services to begin colorectal cancer screening at younger ages.