February 21, 2019

Obesity-linked cancers on the rise in young adults

06 February 2019, 02:26 | Randall Craig

A new study has found links between obesity and cancer

A new study has found links between obesity and cancer

More and more American millennials at increasingly younger ages are being diagnosed with cancers fueled by obesity in the United States, according to an analysis released Monday by the American Cancer Society.

The study - which analyzed 20 years of data (covering 1995 to 2014) for 30 cancers in 25 states - found incidences of obesity-linked cancers to be rising at faster rates in millennials than older US generations.

"Although the obesity epidemic is a quite plausible scenario, we need more knowledge to explain the trends with additional known and unknown cancer risk factors that may have contributed to these trends", she says.

It's not possible to definitively attribute the recent cancer increases to obesity - but the new report notes that the upticks in cancer for young people coincided with a doubling in rates of childhood and adolescent obesity between 1980 and 2014, making weight a likely contributor.

Those are multiple myeloma, colorectal, uterine corpus, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic cancers. Nathan A. Berger, Professor at the Case Western Reserve University and lead author of the study said that the Young people with body mass indexes (BMIs) over 30 are more likely to experience aggressive malignancies.

"Although the absolute risk of these cancers is small in younger adults, these findings have important public health implications", said Ahmedin Jemal, DVM Ph.D., scientific vice president of surveillance & health services research and senior/corresponding author of the paper. He points out that five of the six cancers on the rise in younger adults - colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic cancer - are treated surgically.

"This finding signals an increased burden of obesity-related cancers in older adults in the future and calls for actions to mitigate this burden", he said in an email.

Sung agrees that more evidence is needed to link rising rates of some types of cancers to obesity.

Even though cancer most often strikes older adults, the sharpest increases were found in younger age groups.

With few exceptions, cancer has been seen as a disease of ageing.

"Shockingly, if the same is happening with cancer in the USA it could already be happening here". Each successively younger age group experienced a greater percentage increase.

Incidence in young adults also increased for two cancers that aren't linked to obesity: gastrointestinal cancer and leukemia.

One in 20 cases of cancer in the United Kingdom are linked to excess weight.

According to a report by the ACS, being overweight or obese is linked to many types of cancers.

New Cancer Council Australia funded research has shown over 200,000 cancer cases could be avoided in Australia over the next 25 years if all Australian adults maintained a healthy weight and met the physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention.

"Obesity during childhood actually is a major predictor of adult obesity", Chang said, "I think it highlights the importance of reducing the rates of obesity through better diet, better and more exercise".

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