Cancer is far too common. The disease affects millions of Americans each year and is the second-leading cause of death in the United States. But a new study found that millennials are being diagnosed with the condition at an alarming rate — and cancers fueled by obesity are on the rise.
The study, conducted by the American Cancer Society and published in The Lancet Public Health, examined data on 12 obesity-related cancers between 1995 and 2014 as well as 18 other cancers. They found a disturbing trend among individuals aged 24 to 49: Young adults are contracting cancer on a more regular basis, particularly colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic cancers as well as multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
“The risk of cancer is increasing in young adults for half of the obesity-related cancers, with the increase steeper in progressively younger ages,” coauthor Ahmedin Jemal, vice president of the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program for the American Cancer Society, told CNN. What’s more, the risk increased in a “stepwise manner.”
“The findings from this study are a warning for increased burden of obesity-related cancer in older adults in the future,” Jemal said, “potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades.”
This news is not surprising. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is a rising epidemic, with over 1 billion adults considered obese worldwide, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases reports that 2 out of every 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese.
However, most do not know there is a correlation between obesity and cancer rates. “I think the public in general doesn’t even know that obesity is associated with cancer,” Case Western Reserve University oncologist Dr. Nathan Berger told CNN. And while the reason is unclear, the association is real.
“We know in animal models that obesity accelerates the onset of cancer,” Berger said. “And we know in people that obesity is associated with an increase in cancer and a worse prognosis for patients who have cancer. That’s well established.”
As such, individuals should do their best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and weight. Beyond that, let’s all try to remember to schedule regular checkups, because early detection is key to successfully treating these and other cancers.