Current Colorectal Cancer Reports

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 1–11 | Cite as

Is Timing Important? The Role of Diet and Lifestyle During Early Life on Colorectal Neoplasia

  • Katharina NimptschEmail author
  • Kana Wu
Nutrition and Nutritional Interventions in Colorectal Cancer (K Wu, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Nutrition and Nutritional Interventions in Colorectal Cancer


Purpose of the Review

To summarize the current evidence on the most important dietary and lifestyle factors in colorectal carcinogenesis during different stages of a lifetime with special emphasis on studies investigating exposure during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.

Recent Findings

A number of studies showed that independent of adult obesity, higher body fatness during childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood is associated with risk of colorectal cancer later in life. In one large cohort study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, adherence to a western pattern diet was associated with higher risk of advanced adenoma. The current evidence relating consumption of individual foods and nutrients as well as physical activity during early life to colorectal cancer is sparse and less consistent, at least in part due to limitations in study design, such as sample size, limited data on potential confounders or lack of a validated dietary assessment instrument.


As colorectal carcinogenesis is a long process and can take up to several decades to develop, early life risk factors may also be etiologically relevant. The recent rise in early-onset colorectal cancer incidence and mortality in the USA, i.e., in individuals younger than 55 years at diagnosis, strongly supports that early life risk factors may influence colorectal carcinogenesis. Considering that the majority of colorectal cancers are preventable, there is an urgent need for well-designed investigations on the role of diet and lifestyle factors throughout the life course and risk of colorectal cancers.


Diet Lifestyle Colorectal cancer Colorectal adenoma Life course Childhood Adolescence Young adulthood Overweight Obesity Red meat Processed meat Fiber Dairy Dietary pattern Physical activity 


Funding Information

This article was supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Health (R03CA197879) and the American Institute for Cancer Research to Dr. Kana Wu.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Epidemiology Research GroupMax Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of NutritionHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

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