Monday, January 15, 2024

Cancer increasing among young people

My daughter was 41 years old when she was diagnosed with Type 4 cancer in the orbital of her eye. After treatment the cancer is inactive, but she will never be cancer free, and the danger of a flare-up is still there.

According to a Wall Street Journal article (January 11, 2024), obesity and lifestyle choices are linked to cancers like colorectal, breast, and pancreatic, but doctors emphasize that they don't fully explain the rise in cancer cases among young, otherwise healthy patients. Some individuals, despite being in good health, develop cancer at a young age, challenging conventional explanations.

Graph from WSJ

Cancer originates from genetic mutations that trigger uncontrolled cell multiplication, leading to the formation of tumors. As individuals age, accumulating mutations increase the risk of cancer. However, in younger people, factors seem to initiate this abnormal cell production earlier. Researchers are exploring potential causes, ranging from sedentary lifestyles to exposure to microplastics.

Here are some of the factors doctors are considering for the increasing cancer rate among young people:

  • Oncologists have identified a higher risk of early-onset colorectal cancer in women with prolonged TV watching habits and those who consumed sugary drinks in high school.
  • Additionally, a connection has been observed between being born via caesarean section and an increased risk of colorectal cancer in some women.
  • Studies suggest that diets rich in deep-fried and highly processed foods may contribute to early-onset colorectal cancer, while those high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables may lower risks.
  • Researchers, including Dr. Y. Nancy You at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, have investigated the role of bacteria and other microbes in rectal cancer patients, finding age-related differences. Changes in the microbiome influenced by diet, antibiotic use, or other factors might contribute to inflammation and increased cancer risks.
  • There's suspicion that cancer-causing exposures may have occurred during patients' childhood, making it challenging to trace specific causes.
Unlike historical instances where smoking was a major contributor to lung cancer, current trends suggest a multifactorial origin, with no single identified carcinogen. Some experts express concern that rising cancer risks in young people may reflect broader health issues.

Dr. Sachin Apte at Huntsman Cancer Institute wonders if the trend indicates a larger problem of declining health. Meanwhile, ongoing research at cancer centers, such as Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering, aims to unravel the complexities of cancer by studying patient samples and assessing potential risks, including lifestyle and environmental factors.

For more information, check out the original article from WSJ.

Cancer Is Striking More Young People, and Doctors Are Alarmed and Baffled - WSJ

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