Experts scramble to understand rising cancer rates in young adults

Cancer diagnosis rates among people under 50 are on the rise. In the U.S, the rate among this group jumped nearly 13% from 2000 — when it was 95.6 cases per 100,000 people — to 107.8 by 2019. Physicians and scientists are baffled, scrambling to determine what's beneath the surge and how to identify people at high risk, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 11.

"We have to find out why," Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, senior vice president at the American Cancer Society, told the publication. "Otherwise, the progress we have made in the last 50 years may stall or reverse." 

Gastrointestinal cancers are among those rising fastest in young people. Colorectal cancer trends have been especially concerning: The proportion of colon cancer diagnoses among people younger than 55 increased from 11% in 1995 to 20% in 2019, according to a report the American Cancer Society published last spring, which also found a growing proportion of younger adults diagnosed with advanced-stage disease. 

Researchers suspect more inactive lifestyles, ultra-processed foods and new toxins have raised the risks for younger people. The trends are more complex to understand relative to rising lung cancer deaths in the 20th century, for which there was a single key culprit: smoking. This is different, experts say. 

"Is it part of a larger trend of, are we just getting unhealthier?" Sachin Apte, MD, chief clinical officer at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City, told the news outlet. 

In 2021, the recommendation for when people should begin colon cancer screenings was lowered from age 50 to 45. Last year, the screening recommendation for breast cancer was lowered from 50 to 40 for women with an average risk. 

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars