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Cancers in adults under 50 increasing ‘dramatically,’ Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers say

Cancers in adults under 50 increasing ‘dramatically,’ Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers say

The incidence of early onset cancers, those diagnosed before age 50, including cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver and pancreas, has “dramatically increased” around over the past few decades, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.The scientists conducted extensive analyses of available data in the literature and online, including information on early life exposures, that might have contributed to the trend in an effort to understand why more young people are being diagnosed with cancer. “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 (e.g., decade-later) have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, likely due to risk factors they were exposed to at a young age,” said Shuji Ogino, MD, Ph.D., a professor and physician-scientist in the Department of Pathology at the Brigham. “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.”Researchers said peoples’ diets, lifestyles, weight and environmental exposures have changed substantially in the last several decades. Thus, they hypothesized that factors like the westernized diet and lifestyle may be contributing to the early onset cancer epidemic. The team acknowledged that the increased incidence of certain cancer types is, in part, due to early detection through cancer screening programs.Possible risk factors for early onset cancer included alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity and eating highly processed foods. Scientists said one limitation of the study is that researchers did not have an adequate amount of data from low- and middle-income countries to identify trends in cancer incidence over the decades. Going forward, they said they hope to continue this research by collecting more data and collaborating with international research institutes to better monitor global trends.

The incidence of early onset cancers, those diagnosed before age 50, including cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver and pancreas, has “dramatically increased” around over the past few decades, according to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The scientists conducted extensive analyses of available data in the literature and online, including information on early life exposures, that might have contributed to the trend in an effort to understand why more young people are being diagnosed with cancer.

“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 (e.g., decade-later) have a higher risk of developing cancer later in life, likely due to risk factors they were exposed to at a young age,” said Shuji Ogino, MD, Ph.D., a professor and physician-scientist in the Department of Pathology at the Brigham. “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.”

Researchers said peoples’ diets, lifestyles, weight and environmental exposures have changed substantially in the last several decades. Thus, they hypothesized that factors like the westernized diet and lifestyle may be contributing to the early onset cancer epidemic.

The team acknowledged that the increased incidence of certain cancer types is, in part, due to early detection through cancer screening programs.

Possible risk factors for early onset cancer included alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity and eating highly processed foods.

Scientists said one limitation of the study is that researchers did not have an adequate amount of data from low- and middle-income countries to identify trends in cancer incidence over the decades.

Going forward, they said they hope to continue this research by collecting more data and collaborating with international research institutes to better monitor global trends.

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