Big Health Study Carries Warning for Millennials

Grant Boone
February 6, 2019

"The risk of cancer is increasing in young adults for half of the obesity-related cancers, with the increase steeper in progressively younger ages", said co-author Ahmedin Jemal, who is the vice president of the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program for the American Cancer Society.

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

In contrast to obesity-related cancers, rates of most of the 18 non-obesity related cancers did not increase among young adults during the study period. This was true for half of the 12 cancers classified as related to obesity: colorectal, uterine corpus, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and multiple myeloma (a type of bone marrow cancer). Sharper rises were observed among successively younger generations and particularly among millennials (in their 20s and 30s).

The age group with the greatest increased risk of developing multiple myeloma was those aged between 30 and 34.

The research suggests that the rapid rise in obesity over the last few decades may account for the observed trend, with "younger generations worldwide experiencing an earlier and longer exposure to the dangers of extra weight". Addressing The Rise Of Obesity-Related Cancers The other cancers associated with obesity are thyroid, (postmenopausal) breast, ovarian, upper stomach, meningioma, and liver cancers.

The obesity epidemic which has exploded in the past 40 years means that more people are at risk of certain kinds of cancer.

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"Obesity is now one of the most preventable causes of cancer in the United States and UK - around 1 in 12 cases in the U.S. are caused by excess weight, and more than 1 in 20 in the UK". Other factors, such as changes in screening age and age at first pregnancy and number of children, might also play a role.

Researchers said the findings, published in The Lancet Public Health journal on World Cancer Day, suggested the trends could halt or reverse decades of progress achieved in lowering cancer mortality.

Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO Cancer Council Australia said, "With more than two thirds of adults considered overweight or obese, and almost half insufficiently active, these results show we have the potential to prevent a significant number of cancers in Australia and potentially save thousands of lives". Although rates of most of these cancers also rose in older adults, the increases were much smaller. Public health measures, such as restrictions on advertising of unhealthy calorie-laden foods, could also help, as well as more campaigns to promote healthy lifestyle choices, Jemal said. They added that the trend could set back the recent progress that has been made on cancer. The study does not provide evidence of a causal relationship between obesity and cancer.

The data covered 30 types of cancer, 12 of which had previously been linked to obesity.

[4] For incidence rates and frequencies for all cancer types examined in the study, please see Table S2 the appendix.

The current study did not include data on obesity and can only infer a link between obesity and rising cancer rates, says Schwartz.

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