Cancer in young people under 50: a global pandemic?

Cancer in young people or adults under 50 years of age has become an important issue that draws the attention of the health sector.

Cancer in young people under 50 years of age

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that, in 2020, cancer was the leading cause of death in the world.

Technological advances and the aging of humanity are increasing the number of people diagnosed with cancer at any time of life and regardless of its origin.

Studies by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital warn that not only are cancer cases growing because there are more and more older people, but that the number of cancer cases in people under 50 years of age has been increasing for decades.

Between 2000 and 2012, there was a significant increase in cases of tumors of:

  • Breast,
  • Colon and rectum,
  • Endometrium,
  • esophagus,
  • Extrahepatic biliary tract,
  • Gallbladder,
  • Head and neck,
  • Kidney,
  • Liver,
  • Bone marrow,
  • Pancreas,
  • Prostate,
  • Stomach,
  • Thyroid gland.

With this evidence, several researchers are questioning whether early stage cancer is an emerging global pandemic.

The study also reinforces the importance of increasing awareness of this trend and, in the short term, reevaluating current diagnostic methods.

Lifestyle factors that increase cancer risk

There is evidence that increases in cancer in young people under 50 correlate with increasing lifestyle trends, including diet, environment, and lifestyle.

It is noted that such changes, which began in the mid-20th century, may have affected the incidence of early-onset cancer from the 1990s onwards, as their effects would have been slow to accumulate.

Critical factors are identified as including:

  • Diet high in saturated fat, red meat, processed meat, sugar and ultra-processed foods, but low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber.
  • Lower rates of breastfeeding and increased consumption of formula milk.
  • Increased alcohol consumption.
  • Smoking.
  • Reduced hours of sleep.
  • Obesity and type 1 and 2 diabetes.
  • Reproductive changes, including reduced age at menarche, reduced number of births, increased age at first and last birth, and increased use of oral contraceptives.
  • Physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle.

Should we move prevention to earlier ages?

With more records and control of the number of cases, we could think about establishing health policies and adjusting diagnostic variables.

For doctors and scientists dedicated to this scourge, prevention begins at birth.

In this case, it is essential to be vaccinated against cancer-causing microorganisms such as HPV and HBV and to reduce the risk factors inherent in the global lifestyle.

While cancer rates are unfortunately increasing among younger adults, overall, cancer mortality rates are declining.

At least in the United States, and revolutionary new treatments are helping people live much longer after diagnosis.

For more information in your language on everything you need to know about treatments and disease management, visit Dana-Farber’s table.

Information on the My Health Fair website should not be construed as professional advice or medical recommendations.

Readers should direct any questions regarding personal health care to licensed physicians or other appropriate health care professionals.

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