Obesity-Linked Cancers On the Rise in Young Adults

Maricruz Casares
Febrero 6, 2019

Cancers related to obesity are on a steep rise among millennials, a new study by the American Society has found. Researchers warned that in six out of 12 obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and multiple myeloma), the number of cases went up in people under the age of 50. Researchers claims that obesity increases the risk of 13 different cancers in young adults.

The six obesity-related cancers that showed startling increases among younger adults were colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic and multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Sharper rises were observed among successively younger generations and particularly among millennials (in their 20s and 30s).

Cancers fueled by obesity are on the rise among young adults in the United States and appearing at increasingly younger ages, according to an analysis released Monday by the American Cancer Society. For at least eight cancers, including smoking-related and HIV-associated cancers, the incidence rates dropped. They found a disturbing trend among adults age 24 to 49, CNN reported.

According to the researchers, the growing obesity epidemic in the United States could be influencing the trends identified in the study.

Excess body weight is considered a known carcinogen and is linked with more than a dozen cancers. "At some point we started to see that diabetes was tracking with obesity, what we're seeing now is something similar with respect to certain cancers". Other factors, like the environment and genetics, might also play roles.

Ahmedin Jemal, senior author of the study, said: "Although the absolute risk of these cancers is small in younger adults, these findings have important public health implications".

Currently, less than half of primary care physicians in the USA regularly measure the body-mass index (BMI) of their patients. The authors suggest that restrictions on advertising calorie-dense food and drinks, taxes on sugary drinks and urban planning that promotes physical activity could be effective strategies to stem the emerging trend.

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According to a report by the ACS, being overweight or obese is linked to many types of cancers. However, screening is less common in younger adults, while increases in cancer incidence were still greater.

The American Cancer Society believes this shift could impede the progress recently made in battling cancer.

New Cancer Council Australia funded research has shown over 200,000 cancer cases could be avoided in Australia over the next 25 years if all Australian adults maintained a healthy weight and met the physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention.

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The findings are based on 20 years of data (from 1995 to 2014) for 30 cancers in 25 states; the data was obtained from the Cancer in North America database of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

The current study did not include data on obesity and can only infer a link between obesity and rising cancer rates, says Schwartz.

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