Obesity leads to rising cancer rates among millennials

  • Fitness
  • Sunday, 10 Feb 2019

A steep rise in obesity in the past 40 years may have increased cancer risk in younger generations. Photo: Reuters

Younger adults, especially in the generation known as millennials, are seeing increasing rates of obesity-fueled cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

The rate for six of the 12 cancers related to obesity is increasing in younger adults, the cancer society said in a statement describing results from a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Millennials’ risk of developing certain cancers is nearly double that of baby boomers at the same age, the cancer society said.

The society noted “steeper increases in progressively younger ages and successively younger generations”, and listed colorectal, endometrial, pancreatic and gall bladder cancers among the cancers.

In contrast, the study found rate increases for just two of 18 non-obesity-related cancers researchers examined. Rates stabilised or declined for the rest of them, even smoking-related and infection-related cancers, the cancer society said.

Excess body weight is a known carcinogen because of hormones produced by fat cells and earlier exposure, at different periods of development, compounds the problem.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t the risk itself that was high – it was the change in risk that was alarming for its future public health implications, study authors said.

“Given the large increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young people and increasing risks of obesity-related cancers in contemporary birth cohorts, the future burden of these cancers could worsen as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades,” said Ahmedin Jemal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research, and senior/corresponding author of the paper.

“Cancer trends in young adults often serve as a sentinel for the future disease burden in older adults, among whom most cancer occurs.” – New York Daily News/Tribune News Service

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