Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Colorectal Cancer Rates Up; Blame Obesity

Obesity, Lifestyle Changes Are Factors in the Major Increases in Colorectal Cancer Rates
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 10, 2009 -- Increasing Westernization is the likely culprit in dramatically increasing incidence rates of colorectal cancer around the world, a new study says.

The trend is related to increased consumption of fatty foods in developing countries, and less physical activity -- resulting in obesity, the American Cancer Society’s Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, tells WebMD.

Jemal, an epidemiologist and co-author of the study, says more “people are eating the wrong foods and driving to work instead of walking, just not getting enough physical movement generally.”

The study found that colorectal cancer incidence rates for both men and women increased in 27 of 51 international cancer registries between 1983 and 2002.

“People are eating the wrong foods,” Jemal tells WebMD. “Too much food is being consumed that is high in carbs and fats.”

The rise was seen mostly in economically transitioning countries, including those of Eastern Europe, most parts of Asia and some nations in South America.

The researchers say the study is the first in a peer-reviewed journal -- the June 2009 issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention -- to present colorectal cancer incidence trends across five continents.

An accompanying editorial says the rise points to a failed early detection and prevention strategy, in addition to the failure to address dietary challenges and lifestyle changes related to urbanization, now affecting most of the world.

The editorial says despite recommendations for people to seek early detection via colonoscopy and other methods, most people disregard the suggestions that help many avoid colorectal cancer.

“Recent evidence in the United States and some other countries that the increase in [colorectal cancer] cases is stabilizing also shows an increase in the awareness for timely screening,” Asad Umar and Peter Greenwald of the National Cancer Institute write in the editorial.

The increases in colorectal cancer incidence rates in economically transitioning countries most likely reflect changing dietary and physical activity patterns, Jemal tells WebMD.

The new study, led by ACS epidemiologist Melissa Center, MPH, reviewed colorectal cancer incidence data from 51 cancer registries around the world with long-term information from the Cancer Incidence in Five Continents databases, created by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
bladder cancer x-ray
Do you know the warning signs?
Colon vs Rectal Cancer
New Colorectal Treatments
can lack of sleep affect your immune system
Cancer Facts Quiz
Virtual Colonoscopy
Picture of the Colon
Vitamin D