Obesity-Related Cancers on Rise in Young Adults

Leslie Hanson
February 4, 2019

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information on cancer rates from 25 USA state cancer registries (covering about two-thirds of the US population) diagnosed from 1995 to 2014.

The study found rates of the blood cancer multiple myeloma and cancers of the bowel, womb, gallbladder, kidney, pancreas, and thyroid all increased in adults aged between 25 and 49.

Six of 12 types of obesity-related cancers appeared with a "significantly increased" frequency between 1995 to 2014 in the millions of people included in the study. Pancreatic cancer exemplifies the pattern: Between 1995 and 2014, incidence of the disease rose by 0.77% annually among adults ages 45-49; by 2.47% among those ages 30-34; and by 4.34% among those ages 25-29.

Obese people will not definitely develop cancer but they are at a higher risk than people who are a healthy weight.

"Given the large increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young people and increasing risks of obesity-related cancers in contemporary birth cohorts, the future burden of these cancers could worsen as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades", Ahmedin Jamal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research for the society and the study's corresponding author, said in a press release.

While the United States has the highest obesity levels in the world, the UK's levels have risen by 92 per cent since 1991, compared with a rise of 65 per cent in the USA, making it the sixth fattest nation in the developed world.

Researchers stressed that it remains the case that cancer is far more common in older age groups. Rates of some of these same cancers also increased among older adults, but the increases were much smaller, the researchers said.

The obesity epidemic which has exploded in the past 40 years means that more people are at risk of certain kinds of cancer. The numbers suggest that millennials have roughly twice the risk of developing these cancers as baby boomers did at the same age.

Dr Jemal said: 'Over the past few decades, death rates have been in decline for most cancers, but in the future obesity could reverse that progress, barring any interventions.

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

Because the database does not include details on obesity and other risk factors nor mode of detection for the cancer diagnosis statistics, the results do not provide sufficient information to determine a causal relationship, according to the study.

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