A recent study conducted by an international team of scientists has revealed a startling increase in cancer rates among young Americans, with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders registering the biggest rise in diagnoses over the last decade.
About the study: The research, which uses data from Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries, analyzed over 560,000 patients diagnosed between 2010 and 2019 with early-onset cancer, or cancers affecting those under 50. Published in JAMA Network Open this week, the study revealed a seemingly minor rise from 100 to 103 cases per 100,000 people in cancer diagnoses among individuals under the age of 50 overall.
Alarming trends: The particular area of concern was within the 30 to 39 age group, which experienced a 19% surge during the period. Researchers found the trend alarming, considering the majority of cancer cases have historically occurred in those aged 65 and above.
Breast cancer remained the most common type of cancer to affect younger people, while the most striking increase was seen in gastrointestinal cancers. The rate of people with GI cancers, which include colon cancer and cancer of the appendix, rose by 15%. Early-onset cancers in women increased by 4.4% but declined by 4.9% among men.
Most affected: The data highlights the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities as the most affected by this surge, registering a staggering 32% rise in cancer rates among younger individuals. Hispanic patients followed suit, with a substantial 28% increase. Cancer cases among younger Black patients demonstrated a slight decline of approximately 5%, while young white people did not exhibit any significant change.
Contributing factors: The researchers postulate a range of potential contributors to the trend, including the escalating rates of obesity, coupled with lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption, smoking, sedentary habits and inadequate sleep. Environmental elements, including exposure to carcinogenic chemicals and pollutants, are also believed to play a pivotal role.
More research needed: The research team pointed out that despite the magnitude of these unsettling trends, early-onset cancer diagnoses among young individuals still constitute a relatively modest proportion of overall cancer cases. Nonetheless, this surge demands vigilant monitoring and thorough research to develop effective preventative strategies.
Dr. Paul Oberstein, director of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, underscored the urgency: “This is a population that has had less focus in cancer research, and their numbers are getting bigger, so it’s important to do more research to understand why this is happening.”