Cancer rates rising in younger people

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A new national study shows there is a rise in cancer among younger Americans (those under the age of 50), especially those aged 30 to 39.

To tell us more, we welcomed Dr. Christina Gomez, a gastrointestinal oncologist at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Just today in my clinic, someone 34-years-old, 28-years-old, we’re seeing this,” Dr. Gomez said. “Initially, we thought they were anecdotes and now the numbers are real.”

The study showed a 19.4% increase in cases between 2010 and 2019. There were increases in breast and gastrointestinal cancer cases. Several reasons were believed to be behind the rise, including obesity, lifestyle choices (poor eating habits, not sleeping), and excessive drinking.

The study looked at more than 500,000 cases of early-onset cancer, or cancers diagnosed in patients under age 50, between 2010 and 2019. Overall, these early-onset cancers increased over that decade.

The study indicated the change seemed to be driven by rates of cancer in younger women, which went up an average of 0.67% each year. But at the same time, rates decreased in men by 0.37% each year.

The rate of cancer diagnoses increased in adults in their 30s over the decade. However, it remained stable in other under-50 age groups. At the same time, the rate of cancers in adults 50 and older is going down.

So why the upswing in younger adults? Researchers say it is happening, in part, because of more sensitive screening tests. But there are other theories about what’s behind the rising rates, including smoking and alcohol use. Lifestyle, increased caloric consumption, increased obesity and lack of exercise might also be factors.

“Screening does save lives, we catch cancer at an earlier stage,” Dr. Gomez said.

Click here to read the study.

Dr. Christina Gomez, Gastrointestinal Oncologist, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center

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