Research Reveals Dramatic Rise In Cancer Among People Under 50 Yrs

During the past few decades, more and more people under the age of 50 are developing cancer. Recent research done by the Brigham and Women's Hospital revealed that cases of early onset cancers like that of cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, and pancreas has significantly risen all over the world, beginning since 1990. The results of this extensive study was published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology.

Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, a professor and physician-scientist in the Department of Pathology at the Brigham, said, "From our data, we observed something called the birth cohort effect. This effect shows that each successive group of people born at a later time have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, likely due to risk factors they were exposed to at a young age. We found that this risk is increasing with each generation. For instance, people born in 1960 experienced higher cancer risk before they turn 50 than people born in 1950 and we predict that this risk level will continue to climb in successive generations."

As part of the research, Ogino and lead author of the study, Tomotaka Ugai, MD, PhD, also of the Department of Pathology, and their colleagues first studied global data describing the occurrence of 14 different cancer types, which showed higher incidence in adults before age 50 from 2000 to 2012. Then, the team looked for available studies, which talked about trends of0 risk factors like early life exposures in the general populations. And at last, the team studied literature talking about clinical and biological tumor characteristics of early-onset cancers compared to later-onset cancers diagnosed after 50 years.

The team found that the early life exposome, which encompasses one's diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures, and microbiome, has changed a lot in the last several decades. Thus, they thought that factors like the westernized diet and lifestyle may be leading to the early onset of cancer. The team found out the higher incidence of many of the 14 cancer types cannot be attributed only to advanced screening alone.

Researchers said that the possible risk factors for early cancer included alcohol, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity, and eating foods. Surprisingly, researchers found that while adult sleep duration hasn't drastically changed over the several decades, children are getting lesser sleep than years ago. Risk factors like processed foods, sugary beverages, obesity, type 2 diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle, and alcohol consumption have risen significantly since the 1950s, which many have changed the microbiome.

"Among the 14 cancer types on the rise that we studied, eight were related to the digestive system. The food we eat feeds the microorganisms in our gut. Diet directly affects microbiome composition and eventually these changes can influence disease risk and outcomes," Ugai said.

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