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May 19, 2024

Cases Of Early-Onset Cancer On The Rise

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Jan 20, 2024

Over the past decade, researchers have noticed a concerning trend – more young and middle-aged adults are being diagnosed with cancers that have historically affected older populations. According to a new report from the American Cancer Society, colon and breast cancer rates in particular are increasing sharply among adults under age 50.

New Report Finds Troubling Rise In Early-Onset Cancers

The American Cancer Society’s annual statistics report released on January 17th analyzed trends in cancer incidence and deaths over the past decade. While overall cancer mortality rates continue to decline thanks to improvements in treatment and early detection, the report found that incidence rates for some cancers are rising among young and middle-aged populations.

Specifically, new cases of colon cancer increased by 17% since 2012 among adults under 50. For breast cancer, rates rose by 5% in women under 40 over the same time period.

Dr. Jordan Karlitz, an oncologist at UCLA Medical Center, called the results “incredibly concerning,” adding:

“We are seeing more and more young patients come into our clinics with colon, pancreatic, and other abdominal cancers that have no family history and no genetic predispositions. This suggests wider environmental factors are likely contributing.”

The table below summarizes the report’s key findings on changes in early-onset cancer rates:

Cancer Type Increase In Incidence Rates, 2012-2022 Age Group

| Colon Cancer | +17% | Adults under 50
| Breast Cancer | +5% | Women under 40
| Pancreatic Cancer | +4% | Adults under 50
| Liver Cancer | +3% | Adults under 50

Local Woman Diagnosed With Colon Cancer At 36 Shares Her Story

Tara Phillips of Toledo, Ohio was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in November 2023 at just 36 years old. For Tara, the diagnosis came as a huge shock.

“I kept thinking, how could this happen to me? I ate healthy, exercised, never smoked. No one in my family has ever had cancer this young.”

After months of unexplained stomach pain and digestive issues, Tara finally went for a colonoscopy that revealed a large tumor in her transverse colon. Genetic testing found no hereditary cancer markers.

Tara quickly began an intense 8-month chemotherapy regimen, requiring her to take extended medical leave from her job as a high school teacher.

“It’s been so hard knowing my friends are all healthy and carefree while I’m battling for my life at 36. But I’m determined to beat this.”

Tara hopes her story will inspire others to take digestive symptoms seriously and get screened early, regardless of age or family history.

Reasons For The Rise In Early-Onset Cancers Remain Unclear

The American Cancer Society report emphasized the need for more research to uncover why certain cancers are affecting younger groups more than before.

Diet and Lifestyle Factors

Some experts believe aspects of modern lifestyle and diet are fueling rising cancer rates. Diets high in processed foods, chronic stress, lack of exercise, and obesity may all contribute to earlier cancer development.

However, many young cancer patients lead otherwise healthy lives, confounding a definitive link.

Environmental Triggers

Increasing exposure to carcinogenic chemicals in food, consumer products, and the environment could also be triggering DNA mutations that lead to cancer. However, definitively proving this link poses challenges.

Better Screening

More frequent screening for colon and some other cancers enables earlier diagnosis compared to decades past. But this does not fully account for the considerable increases in new cancer cases among young adults.

The reality is likely a combination of factors yet to be fully understood. As M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Dr. Naomi Ko put it:

“This is an urgent public health issue, and we need major investments in research to elucidate causes and find prevention strategies.”

What Could This Mean For The Future?

Continued rise in early-onset cancers foreshadows a growing wave of patients needing treatment earlier in life. This has significant implications for healthcare systems, patients and families, and wider society.

  • Healthcare systems will require greater resources to meet demand for cancer treatment in younger populations, including fertility preservation which is important for younger groups.
  • Younger patients often face significant financial challenges balancing treatment costs with lost income, childcare, etc. New financial assistance programs and policies may be warranted.
  • As more parents face cancer at a young age, the rippling effects on families and children’s mental health should be addressed as well.

While research continues, awareness and early intervention offer hope of mitigating impacts for younger groups facing cancer diagnoses. Tara spoke to this from experience:

“The key is listening to your body and pushing for answers. Early detection, even if you’re young, makes all the difference.”

Healthcare providers are also waking up to the warned of missed opportunities when younger adults present with symptoms often dismissed as benign. Adjusting risk assessment and screen protocols will also help flag cancers sooner in at-risk groups.

Final Thoughts

The reasons behind rising early onset cancers require urgent attention as this worrying epidemic grows. But through heightened vigilance, research, and awareness, patients like Tara Phillips have the best chances of positive outcomes from an often life-altering diagnosis.

AiBot

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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