Millennials face increased risk of cancer 'because they're so fat'

Millennials face increased risk of cancer 'because they're so fat'

The obesity epidemic may be contributing to an increase in certain cancers among millennials in the USA, a new study suggests. This is 5.6 times higher than the 0.77 per cent in those aged 45 to 49.

The study - which analyzed 20 years of data (covering 1995 to 2014) for 30 cancers in 25 states - found incidences of obesity-linked cancers to be rising at faster rates in millennials than older US generations.

And it warned the problem could set back recent progress on cancer.

"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", Ahmedin Jamal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research for the society and the study's corresponding author, said in a press release.

"This finding signals an increased burden of obesity-related cancers in older adults in the future and calls for actions to mitigate this burden", he said in an email.

Extra body fat does not just sit in the body doing nothing.

Cancer is caused by an error in cell division which results in them multiplying uncontrollably and building up into tumours.

However, according to Brenda Birmann, a doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, obesity is only one factor that could be leading to increased cancer rates among young adults.

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Although the link between obesity and cancer is not clearly understood, it is generally believed that excess body fat can affect the immune system and levels of certain hormones such as insulin and estrogen, factors that impact cell growth, and proteins that regulate how the body uses certain hormones.

'On the eve of World Cancer Day, it's timely to consider what can be done to avert the impending rise'.

According to the charity Cancer Research UK, obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, after smoking.

Researchers found that the rates of six out of 12 obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic and multiple myeloma - a blood cancer) all went up, particularly in people under the age of 50.

They also rose in older adults, except for bowel cancer, but by a smaller percentage.

For example, in pancreatic cancer the average annual change was equal to or less than one per cent in people aged 40 to 84, 1.3 per cent in those aged 35 to 39, and 2.5 per cent in 30 to 34-year-olds.

The younger the age group, the greater the size of the increase in all seven of the cancer types except for thyroid cancer.

'Younger generations are experiencing earlier and longer-lasting exposure to excess fat and to obesity-related health conditions that can increase cancer risk'. And while we don't yet know exactly how obesity may be driving up cancer rates, it's "critically important" to see observational studies that that show an association between the two, he noted.

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