A study led by the American Cancer Society indicates that the rate for some cancers linked to obesity is rising among young adults in America. This is unfortunate because, in the past few decades, new cancer cases and cancer deaths have actually decreased in the US. As I'm sure you're aware, obesity among all age groups has become a major problem in the United States. According to the latest numbers from the CDC, nearly 36% of American adults aged 20-39 are obese. Experts predict that this percentage will increase exponentially if things don't change. Research shows that if we don't make changes, 57% of American children will be obese before they turn 35.
Research published in Lancet Public Health shows that myeloma, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder kidney, and pancreatic cancer increased in people aged 25-49 between 1995 and 2014. Older adults are usually more likely to get cancer, but these studies show that the biggest increases were seen in young adults. A prime example of this occurred with pancreatic cancer.
Annual increase of pancreatic cancer between 1995 and 2014 broken down by age group:
Adults aged 45 to 49: 0.77% rise
Adults aged 30 to 34: 2.47% rise
Adults aged 25 to 29: 4.34%
The biggest increase was seen in young adults with kidney cancer. Between 1995 and 2014, there was an annual increase of 6.23% in young Americans. It's so important that Americans start changing their eating and exercise habits. A healthy lifestyle is crucial in preventing many cancers. There are some cancers where we can track down the exact cause, for example, smoking and lung cancer or HPV and cervical cancer. For other cancers, the cause can be more difficult to pinpoint and can actually be caused by a combination of things, including health factors and genetics. Obesity has shown to have the most impact on these factors. Research has shown that excess body weight has contributed to 40% of cancer cases in the USA.
Obesity is a major risk factor for common cancers like breast, ovarian, liver, and the others mentioned in the study. The study reported that by 2014, obesity accounted for 60% of endometrial cancers, 36% of gallbladder cancers, 33% of kidney cancers, 17% of pancreatic cancers and 11% of multiple myeloma among adults aged 30 and older.
Obesity can lead to cancer in more ways than one. Excess weight can fuel cancer cell growth because of inflammation. It has also shown to increase other chronic conditions. Excess weight also has the power to disrupt insulin levels and levels of sex and growth hormone which can cause cancer cells to grow and spread.
We can't contribute these increases in cancer to obesity with 100% certainty, however, the study points out that the increases coincided with a doubling in childhood and adolescent obesity between 1990 and 2014. This can't just be a coincidence. The only non-obesity related cancers that increased in young adults were leukemia and a type of lower stomach cancer, so it's clear that not all cancers increased in this age group.
The authors of the study stress that healthcare providers make more of an effort to help prevent obesity since the "consequences of climbing cancer rates could threaten decades of public health progress". The authors wrote, “The future burden of these cancers might be exacerbated as younger cohorts age, potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades.”