Obesity-Related Cancers on Rise in Young Adults

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

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

Researchers say this trend may be down to the rapid rise in obesity in the last few decades with "younger generations worldwide experiencing an earlier and longer exposure to the dangers of extra weight".

From 1999-2000 to 2015-2016, the prevalence of obesity in the USA population increased from 20.5 percent to 39.5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For instance, pancreatic cancer is traditionally most common in people over the age of 65.

During the period examined, the incidence of pancreatic cancer, for example, increased by about one percent per year for adults aged 45 to 49.

Those between the ages of 30 and 34 saw a 2.47 percent increase, while those between the ages of 35 and 39 saw a 1.31 percent increase. These cancers include multiple myeloma, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic.

The study - which analyzed 20 years of data (covering 1995 to 2014) for 30 cancers in 25 states - found incidences of obesity-linked cancers to be rising at faster rates in millennials than older US generations.

It has also risen sharply in other rich nations and, more recently, the developing world. Research in the United Kingdom shows at least seven in 10 people born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s will likely be overweight or obese by their mid-30s and 40s.

That upward trajectory has experts concerned about associated medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and up to 13 types of cancer.

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"But in the future, obesity could reverse that progress", co-author Jemal cautioned.

Although the link between obesity and cancer is not clearly understood, it is generally believed that excess body fat can affect the immune system and levels of certain hormones such as insulin and estrogen, factors that impact cell growth, and proteins that regulate how the body uses certain hormones.

Building on earlier research suggesting a link between obesity and more frequent colon cancers in young adults, Jamel and colleagues analysed all cancer cases from 1995 to 2015 in 25 U.S. states home to 67 percent of the population. They looked at the rates of 30 different cancers, including the 12 obesity-related cancers, and 18 other cancers that have not been tied to obesity, such as lung and skin cancer. Separating data into five-year age cohorts, they found that incidence of six cancers - colorectal, endometrial, multiple myeloma, gall bladder, kidney and pancreas - out of the 12 related to obesity in adults between the ages of 25 and 49 increased significantly between 1995 to 2014.

"This study should be a wake-up call to all Americans, young and old alike", the American Society of Clinical Oncology said in a statement.

And it warned the problem could set back recent progress on cancer.

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. Not everyone who gets these cancers is overweight either, and not everyone who is obese will necessarily get these cancers.

"Less than half of primary care physicians regularly assess body mass index despite national screening recommendations", he told NBC News.

"Yet, I think the public in general doesn't even know that obesity is associated with cancer", said Case Western Reserve University oncologist Dr. Nathan Berger, who was not associated with the American Cancer Society study.

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