Cancer Rates Rising in Millennial

'Shocking' rise in obesity-related cancers among young adults

"Our findings expose a recent change that could serve as a warning of an increased burden of obesity-related cancers to come in older adults", explained Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society, and the new study's co-author. Only two types of non-obesity-related cancer, leukemia and a type of lower stomach cancer, increased among younger age groups during the study, suggesting that all cancer rates are not rising in this population.

Most epidemiological studies have focused on older populations so the effect on cancer risk of excess bodyweight in early life, or of weight gain in young adulthood, is not well understood.

Still unexplained, however, is why the six other forms of cancer classified by the UN's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as related to obesity did not also show similar rates of increase among younger adults. It can increase inflammation, which is a risk factor for a number of chronic conditions and has been found to fuel cancer cell growth.

The study, released Monday by the American Cancer Society, found that the risk of cancer is increasing in young adults for half of all obesity-related cancers.

Healthcare providers should be vigilant about screening for and helping patients try to prevent obesity, since the consequences of climbing cancer rates could threaten decades of public health progress, the authors say.

Incidence of multiple myeloma and cancers of the colorectum, uterine corpus, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, and thyroid increased in younger adults (25 to 49 years).

In fact, these cancers are rising faster among younger adults than older folks, and that could stall or reverse years of progress in reducing cancer deaths, the study authors said. Worryingly, the risk of colorectal, uterine and gallbladder cancers has also doubled for millennials compared to baby boomers when they were the same age. They found that the most significant rise of obesity-related cancers is among the 25-49 age group, particularly in millennials who are in their 20s and 30s. "We know there are many factors that are associated with both obesity and cancer, such as lack of exercise and poor diet".

With few exceptions, cancer has been seen as a disease of ageing. These changes include genetic flags and markers - epigenetic modifications - that increase cancer risk and may remain long after weight loss. Not everyone who gets these cancers is overweight either, and not everyone who is obese will necessarily get these cancers.

It was conducted by researchers from Surveillance and Health Services Research Program at the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

In the case of pancreatic cancer, the study identified a 4.3 per cent annual rise in among 25-29 year olds, compared to a 2.5 per cent increase in 30 to 34 years and a less than 1 per cent rise in 40-84 year olds. That, he said, should be a wake-up call for doctors, policy makers and the public, especially when it comes to childhood obesity. Obesity is among the most impactful of these.

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