Alarming rise in obesity-related cancers in young people

Published On: February 4, 2019 01:30 PM NPT By: Agencies

The obesity epidemic is driving a surge in the number of young people diagnosed with obesity-related cancers that threatens to reverse decades of progress in lowering cancer deaths, according to a new study.

The rate of six of the 12 cancers linked to obesity are rising at a much faster rate among 25 to 49 year olds than in older age groups, according research into US patients.

The six kinds affected are kidney, pancreatic, gallbladder, multiple myeloma, uterine corpus and colorectal – or bowel – cancer.

“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,” says co-author Dr Ahmedin Jemal from the American Cancer Society, in the US.

Lower incidence in young

“Most cancers occur in older adults, which means that as the young people in our study age, the burden of obesity-related cancer cases and deaths are likely to increase even more. It’s timely to consider what can be done to avert the impending rise.

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.

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.

Compelling study Chris Macdonald, Head of Research at Pancreatic Cancer UK said: “The study reveals some striking findings and offers a compelling theory that the recent increase in obesity in the population drives the disproportionate increase in risk of pancreatic cancer in young adults.”

“These findings give more weight to the growing body of evidence that our lifestyle choices, especially early in life, have a huge impact on our future health and well-being. The research community is now tasked with the challenge of testing this theory and exploring other contributing factors,” he said.

Across the six cancer types, the annual increase ranged from 0.4 per cent in uterine corpus cancer to 3.0 per cent in kidney cancer amongst 45 to 49-year-olds, and from 1.4 per cent for multiple myeloma up to 6.2 per cent in kidney cancer in 25 to 29 year-olds.

Lancet Public Health journal

Although the study, published in the Lancet Public Health journal did not look at UK patients, the authors said it was plausible that their findings held for the UK.

They are now conducting further studies around the world to confirm this. Meanwhile a separate study by Erasmus University Rotterdam into bowel cancer last year found soaring rates in younger people across Europe – with scientists saying rising obestity levels were most likely to be the reason for the jump.

This found that across Europe the rate of new cases of colon cancer among people aged 20-39 has risen by 7.4 per cent each year between 2008 and 2016, with incidence of rectal cancer also increasing.

“Obesity is a huge public health threat in the UK right now,” Linda Bauld

That research included data from national cancer registries of 20 European countries, including the UK, Norway, Slovenia and Germany.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obesity is a huge public health threat in the UK right now. If trends continue as projected carrying excess weight could cause even more cases of cancer in women than smoking within 25 years.

“More than seven in 10 UK millennials (those born between the early 80s and mid 90s) are set to be overweight or obese by middle age (35 – 44), making them the most overweight generation since records begun,” she added.


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