Rising instances of malignant tumours among youth could be attributed to the increasing consumption of non-vegetarian food and lesser intake of greens, fruits and vegetables

Gastrointestinal malignancies, particularly, colorectal and stomach cancers, were rising significantly among young people--probably due to improper dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle, warned oncologists.

Talking to The Hindu in connection with World Cancer Day being observed on February 4, Dr. P. Vijayanand Reddy, Director, Apollo Cancer Hospital, said malignant tumours were occurring at a very young age of 25-30 years.

It could be attributed to increasing consumption of non-vegetarian food and less intake of greens, fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Srikanth, senior surgical oncologist from Yashodha Hospitals, said diet and lifestyle were major risk factors for colorectal cancers while alcohol and smoking, apart from spicy and fried food contributed significantly to stomach cancers.

Eating junk food (high in saturated fatty acids) right from school-going age, absence of physical activity, stressful lifestyle and lack of adequate sleep were among the risk factors, particularly for colorectal cancer.

Observing that body was not habituated to withstand toxins for long, he said they damage the protective lining in the colon and increase the chances of developing cancer.

Carcinogenic impact

Dr. Vijayanand Reddy said both colorectal and stomach cancers used to occur in people above 60 years earlier but their increase in the younger age group was being seen in the last 10 years.

He said that use of pesticides in food cultivation could definitely be one of the causative factors.

Similarly, preservatives in the food or storing cooked food for long periods could have carcinogenic impact, he added.

The remedies include eating less spicy and fried food, plenty of vegetables, green salads and fruits, particularly those containing fibre.

Both the experts have called for regular screening (endoscopy and colonoscopy) of people from an early age- 30 or 40 years- for early detection of the problem. Those with family history need to be compulsorily screened from the age of 30.


The main symptoms for stomach cancer include feeling of bloating, loss of appetite as also weight and indigestion.

Those for colorectal cancer are constipation, diarrhoea, feeling of inadequate emptying of bowels, coffee coloured stools, blood or mucus in stools and pain while passing stools.

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