A Global Increase in Cancer Cases Among Youth

A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom has revealed a 79% increase in the number of new cancer cases among people under the age of 50 between 1990 and 2019.

Moreover, the research indicates that deaths among these patients have increased by over 27%.

The study concluded that more than a million cancer patients under 50 die annually with types like breast, lung, colorectal, stomach, and esophageal cancer being responsible for the majority of these deaths.

Multifactorial Causes

Dr. David Liska, a colorectal cancer surgeon, stated, “We believe the cause is multifactorial.”

The researchers found a correlation between the birth date and the increase in cancer cases, with individuals born in the decades since the 1950s suffering higher rates of cancer in youth, compared to those born in previous decades.

This suggests that shared exposure to specific environmental factors may be linked to these increasing risks, whether due to changes in dietary habits, chemical exposure, or other factors.

Liska added, “We discovered differences in the gut microbiome, metabolic processes, and the tumour microenvironment in young and older individuals with the same cancer. Other considerations include personal cancer risk factors such as obesity and sedentary lifestyles becoming more prevalent in this age group, contributing to the exacerbation of the problem.”

Treatment

There is a need for a tailored approach for young patients, as the biological nature of cancer, along with the psychological and long-term treatment effects, differs in young people compared to older individuals.

Liska explained, “Young cancer patients face unique challenges in their life stages. For example, these young individuals may want to start a family, making discussing the matter with a fertility specialist important. Others may have children or care for elderly family members, and the transition from being a caregiver to someone in need of care can be financially and socially challenging, highlighting the importance of psychologists and social workers in these cases.”

He added, “Young patients also benefit from advice provided by healthcare experts who can work with them to modify their diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits to support treatment, avoid cancer-related complications or treatment-related complications, and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence”.

Moreover, he explained that finding a team of multidisciplinary specialists experienced in treating young cancer patients is crucial as the quality of the provided treatment can significantly impact the outcomes, not only in terms of survival rates but also in the quality of life after treatment.

Prevention

Regarding prevention, Liska recommended adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol consumption.

He noted that early diagnosis is also crucial because the earlier cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcomes. Individuals should not ignore persistent symptoms of any kind but should discuss them with a doctor.

Additionally, individuals should discuss any family history of cancer with their doctor, who can provide advice on the best timing for cancer screenings and the frequency of these screenings, as well as whether individuals should undergo genetic testing.

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