Since 1990, the number of adults under the age of 50 who develop cancer has increased dramatically worldwide. In an article published in the journal Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology, researchers say they have tried to determine whether early cancer is an emerging global epidemic. Judging by the results of the study, the answer is yes, and it’s not just because of improved screening techniques.
If there is nothing revolutionary in the fact that cancer is constantly evolving in our time, that it affects a greater number of people under the age of 50 would, on the other hand, be a real discovery. In this study relayed by ScienceAlert, Shuji Ogino, pathologist and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, finds that in fact, “the risk of early cancer increased during each generation”.
“Adults under 50 born in 1960 have a higher risk of cancer than those born in 1950, and we expect this risk to continue to increase over generations”he continues.
To reach these conclusions, the research team looked at individuals born between 1950 and 1990, then began studying their cancer risk from the 1990s. The review looked at more than fourteen types of cancer different. Global data on the disease have also revealed an evolution in the rate of cancer in people under 50 between 2000 and 2012.
The researchers did not stop there and tried to shed light on the factors explaining the constant evolution of early cancers by reviewing all the available studies.
The factors involved
Obviously comes into play the increase in screenings, which make it possible to detect a greater number of early cancers. However, according to the researchers, this parameter is not able to explain the phenomenon on its own, especially since countries without a screening program are also experiencing an unprecedented rate of early cancers.
Additionally, lifestyles have changed dramatically—particularly since the rise of highly processed foods—and evidence suggests that a combination of diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures, and microbiome ( set of microorganisms and their genes living in a particular environment) may be involved.
“Of the fourteen types of increasing cancers we studied, eight were related to the digestive system”explains epidemiologist Tomotaka Ugai, of Harvard Medical School.
Another interesting fact: Although adults’ sleep duration has not changed drastically in recent decades, children, on the other hand, sleep much less, the researchers report. One of the long-term objectives would therefore be to be able to educate people to lead a healthier life from their earliest years, in order to reduce the risk of early cancers.