Cancer is on the rise in under-50s – a key task is to work out why

Nine in 10 of all cancers affect people over 50 but research shows a worrying rise in early onset cases

There are many upsides to growing old, but one of the downsides, unfortunately, is a higher risk of developing cancer. Increasing age is a key risk factor. And with more of us living longer worldwide, millions of older people will have to contend with the disease

Now a new study adds weight to previous work warning of a grim trend in global health: cancer in people under the age of 50 is becoming more common.

In the study, researchers led by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China, found that the number of under-50s being diagnosed with cancer worldwide rose by 79% between 1990 and 2019, from 1.82 million to 3.26 million. Cancer deaths in the same age group grew by 27%, and more than 1 million under-50s a year are now dying of cancer, the research published in BMJ Oncology reveals

The study is not the first to show the trend. A review in 2022 of cancer registry records from 44 countries found that the incidence of early onset cancer was rising rapidly for 14 types of cancers, and this increase was happening across many middle- and high-income nations.

The new research adds meat to the bone. Examining data from 204 countries, it found a striking increase in the global incidence of early onset cancers. It also showed the highest incidence rates of cancer in the under-50s was in North America, Oceania and western Europe.

Researchers worldwide are only just starting their next task: working out why.

The authors of the 2022 review, led by Harvard University, said any uptick in testing or checks could not account for the rise in diagnoses. They suggested the rise was most likely due to an unhealthy mix of risk factors that could be working together, some which are known and others of which need to be investigated.

Many of these risks had established links to cancer such as obesity, inactivity, diabetes, alcohol, smoking, environmental pollution and western diets high in red meat and added sugars, not to mention shift work and lack of sleep. Experts have speculated that ultra-processed food may also be partly to blame

The researchers behind the new study echoed those observations. Genetic factors are likely to have a role, they say. But diets high in red meat and salt and low in fruit and milk, as well as alcohol consumption and tobacco use, are the main risk factors underlying the most common cancers among under-50s, with physical inactivity, excess weight and high blood sugar other contributory factors.

As worrying as the increase in early onset cancers is, caution is required. Cancer in people under 50 is still uncommon. With breast cancer, the most common type in under-50s, there were 13.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2019. Nine in 10 of all cancers affect people over 50.

Until experts unlock definitive answers, there remains plenty that people young and old can do to reduce their risk of cancer. Not smoking, maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy weight, getting plenty of exercise and staying safe in the sun are among them.

 

Andrew GregoryHealth editor

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/sep/05/cancer-is-on-the-rise-in-under-50s-a-key-task-is-to-work-out-why?utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=September+12+2023+Cancer+Today+E-newsletter&utm_term=Read+More+in+the+Guardian

Depression Is Often Overlooked in Cancer Patients

When Carly Flumer was a teenager, she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She saw a psychiatrist and a therapist regularly, and got medication and counseling. She managed her mental health well for over a decade. But in January 2017, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of thyroid cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes by the time it was diagnosed.

That’s when things got complicated again.

Flumer, then 27, underwent surgery to remove her thyroid. She also received intensive radiation. To all observers, she got a clean bill of health — at least with regard to her cancer. But, she says, her mental health had suffered.

“People absolutely do not understand the panic a cancer diagnosis can cause,” Flumer says. “My depression and anxiety got worse when I got diagnosed. I also have had more suicidal thoughts because of the cancer,” she says. “The side effects of treatment are real. So is the stress of waiting to see if the cancer comes back again.”

The Economics of Health for All and the Transformative Power of the Arts

In the first-ever report of its kind, the WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has outlined a bold new path to reorient economies to deliver what matters – health for all.

The Council has put forward a bold new narrative grounded in new economic wisdom to reorient economies to deliver health for all across four interrelated themes:

  1. Value – valuing and measuring what matters through new economic metrics;
  2. Finance – how to finance health for all as a long-term investment, not a short-term cost;
  3. Innovation – how to advance health innovation for the common good;
  4. Capacity – how to strengthen dynamic public sector capacity to achieve health for all.

Meet the new WHO Goodwill Ambassadors for Arts and Health

The appointments of Fleming and Yende underscore the profound link between arts and health. Engagement in creative activities, such as music, art, and dance, positively impacts physical, mental health, social well-being, and overall quality of life.

Through their roles as Goodwill Ambassadors, Fleming and Yende will promote the integration of arts into healthcare systems, advocate for access to creative arts therapies, and champion the importance of artistic expression in improving health outcomes globally.

Health for All Film Festival

A shortlist of 93 films has been selected for the 4th Health for All Film Festival out of more than 780 entries received.

Watch the shortlisted films here. Winners will be announced on 6 June.

Key highlights from the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly

As the world faces ongoing health and humanitarian emergencies, the Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly focuses on driving forward health for all. This year’s session of the World Health Assembly determines the immediate and longer-term future of WHO, starting with the program budget for the next two years, key decisions about the sustainable financing of the Organization and changes put in place to improve WHO’s processes and accountability. Delegates also deliberate about the critical role that WHO has in the Global Health Emergency Architecture.
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