"The fact that increases were mostly in obesity-related cancers is due to the obesity epidemic, and we would expect that the incidence would increase as this younger population ages", said lead researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal. Researchers claims that obesity increases the risk of 13 different cancers in young adults.
"Similarly, the annual percent change by age was largest in individuals aged 25-29 years for cancers of the kidney, gallbladder, corpus uteri, and colorectum, and in individuals aged 30-34 years for multiple myeloma", the authors wrote in the study. Exposures to carcinogens during early life may have an even more important influence on cancer risk by acting during crucial developmental periods.
More and more American millennials at increasingly younger ages are being diagnosed with cancers fueled by obesity in the United States, according to an analysis released Monday by the American Cancer Society. Addressing The Rise Of Obesity-Related Cancers The other cancers associated with obesity are thyroid, (postmenopausal) breast, ovarian, upper stomach, meningioma, and liver cancers.
The incidence remains far lower in younger people - with two 25-49 year olds per 100,000 getting pancreatic cancer a year, compared to 37 per 100,00 in 50-84 year olds - but the trend is concerning, researchers said. Obesity is now one of the most preventable causes of cancer in both the United States and the UK - around 1 in 12 cases in the U.S. are caused by excess weight and more than 1 in 20 in the UK. "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". The authors suggest that other factors could also be at play, such as changes in screening practice and women's reproductive factors including age at first full-term pregnancy and number of children.
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"Importantly, the findings suggest the need for further close epidemiological monitoring of cancer incidence trends in younger adults", Birmann told BBC.
The rates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths have fallen in the US over the past few decades. Public health measures, such as restrictions on advertising of unhealthy calorie-laden foods, could also help, as well as more campaigns to promote healthy lifestyle choices, Jemal said. Only a third of people who are obese report receiving a diagnosis or weight loss counselling.
While scientists are not sure exactly how there is "quite convincing evidence" that excess body weight increases the risks of some cancers, says Sung, principal scientist of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.
That research included data from national cancer registries of 20 European countries, including the UK, Norway, Slovenia and Germany. They looked at 30 types of cancers, including 12 that are considered obesity-related.
The current study did not include data on obesity and can only infer a link between obesity and rising cancer rates, says Schwartz.