Morgan Chamberlain

mbg Supplement Editor

By Morgan Chamberlain

mbg Supplement Editor

Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition.

Woman with Stomach Pain

Image by LaylaBird / iStock

March 25, 2023

Colorectal cancer is expected to become the leading cancer death for young people1 (ages 20-49) in the U.S. by 2030, according to a new Science review. Cases of early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC), aka young-onset colorectal cancer, has been rising 2% to 4% per year since the 90s in many countries, with more rapid increases occurring in patients under the age of 30.

So, what the heck is going on? And how can we best support our gut and digestive health to help prevent early- and late-onset CRC?


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Why are early-onset colorectal cancer cases rising?

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer death (after lung cancer), accounting for 9% of all cancer mortalities2 in 2020, per the CDC. 

Researchers hypothesize that the increase in EOCRC could be due to a number of health and environmental factors in younger demographics, including:

  • Increased consumption of standard American diet foods (e.g., sugary beverages, red and processed meat) 
  • Obesity in adolescence and adulthood
  • Sedentary behavior 
  • Metabolic conditions (e.g., hypertension, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes)
  • Increased antibiotic use
  • Increased environmental toxin exposure
  • Higher rates of C-sections and other surgical procedures


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The connection between vitamin D deficiency and colorectal cancer

In addition to rising risk factors, evidence shows that failing to get enough of certain nutrients (like vitamin D) can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

According to a 2019 Journal of the National Cancer Institute study, vitamin D deficiency (which affects 29% of U.S. adults3) increases risk of colorectal cancer by 31%4. Higher circulating vitamin D levels [i.e., 25(OH)D] were found to lower CRC risk in women substantially compared to men.

Scientists found that the optimal 25(OH)D level for reducing colorectal cancer risk is at least 40 ng/ml—10 ng/ml higher than what’s clinically defined as “sufficient.” This is in line with leading wellness experts’ recommended vitamin D status of 50 ng/ml.


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How to achieve & maintain vitamin D sufficiency

To both reach and sustain the golden standard of vitamin D levels (again, 50 ng/ml) science shows you need a daily intake of 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (not D2). Unfortunately, achieving this daily intake is nearly impossible for most people via food and sunshine alone.

Taking a quality vitamin D3 supplement that delivers 5,000 IU and, ideally, added healthy fats to help optimize absorption of this essential fat-soluble vitamin is the most effective way to reach and maintain vitamin D sufficiency. For an insider’s look at the best vitamin D supplements on the market, check out mindbodygreen’s guide to finding the perfect D3 supplement for you.

The takeaway

Early-onset colorectal cancer is rising at a rapid rate—especially for Americans under the age of 30. Research also shows that vitamin D deficiency increases colorectal cancer risk by 31%.

To reach and sustain healthy vitamin D levels, consider increasing your vitamin D intake with a premium D3 supplement.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.