Why Are Cancer Rates Increasing Among Adults Under 50?

Why are cancer rates increasing among adults under 50? Good question. Up until fairly recently the average age of a cancer diagnosis was 68. Now, doctors are noticing a substantial increase in cancer among adults under 50.

Woman with cancer overlooking a lake.

Early Life Exposures: Birth Cohort Effect

Of the 14 cancers on the rise, early onset cancers like those of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, kidney, and pancreas and others related to the digestive system have significantly increased since 1990.

Did something happen or change in early life to contribute to the trend?

A report comprised by researchers from Brigham Women’s Hospital proffers that successive groups of people born at a later date, like one decade later, have a higher risk of developing cancer specifically due to the risk factors they were exposed to at a young age. The conclusion is that the risks increase with each generation.

People born in the 60s had a higher cancer risk before age 50 than individuals born in the 50s. The researchers believe the risks will continue to increase with each successive generation.

What Has Changed?

One obvious change since 1990 is the increased detection of cancer due to advanced screening programs. That is a positive, since the early detection provides for early treatment.

In addition, other things have significantly increased since 1990. These things affect our microbiome: namely a western diet, a sedentary lifestyle, the environment and toxins, and obesity.

Alcohol consumption and binge drinking among adolescents, sleep deprivation, smoking—especially between age 12 and 20, obesity, eating highly processed foods, sugary beverages, and type 2 diabetes have all increased in the last 30 years.

How to Mitigate Early Onset Cancers

Parents should begin to consider their own children and how they can prevent early onset cancers in their lives. If you plan to get pregnant, smoking, diet, alcohol, and obesity during pregnancy can increase your child’s future cancer risk.

Encouraging certain behaviors at a young age can help reduce this trend. You can make the decision to live a healthier life and promote that in your young children.

  • Stay physically active.
  • Eat healthy with high fiber, lean protein, and fruits and veggies, to promote healthy gut bacteria.
  • Limit red meat and processed foods.
  • Keep a healthy weight and avoid a BMI higher than 30.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Drink judiciously.
  • Get vaccinated from HPV and hepatitis B virus.

Buck the trend of early onset cancers starting with yourself and the rest of your family.

Contact Southwest Diagnostic Center For Molecular Imaging at (214) 345-8300 if you are experiencing any changes to your body that might indicate early onset cancer or if you are due for a cancer screening.