Health Care

Researchers see surge in number of people under 50 diagnosed with cancer

Researchers are seeing a surge in the number of people under 50 diagnosed with cancer, according to a recent study. 

Globally, new cancer cases among people younger than 50 increased by 79.1 percent from 1990 to 2019, according to a new study published in BMJ Oncology. The number of early-onset cancer deaths also increased by 27.7 percent from 1990 to 2019. 

Using data from the 2019 Global Burden Of Disease study, researchers discovered early-onset breast, tracheal, bronchus and lung, stomach and colorectal cancers showed the highest mortality and disability-adjusted life years in 2019. The rates of early-onset nasopharyngeal and prostate cancers demonstrated the fastest increasing trend, while early-onset liver cancer showed the sharpest decrease. 

Researchers analyzing the survey said the data serves as a “prediction” of the incidence and death rates of cancer in people under 50 from 2020 to 2030. 

“This serves as a warning for future burden on healthcare systems, which are still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote in an analysis

Pointing to data that showed people aged 40 to 49 were specifically affected by early-onset cancer, the researchers called for “targeted early detection measures” for the age group, including potential expansion of screening. 

In an examination of risk factors underlying early-onset cancers, the study found dietary habits, alcohol consumption and tobacco use contributed the most to such cases. 

While noting the importance of knowing these factors, researchers said the full understanding of the reasons behind early-onset cancers “remain elusive.” 

“Lifestyle factors are likely contributing, and novel areas of research such as antibiotic usage, the gut microbiome, outdoor air pollution and early life exposures are being explored,” the researchers wrote. 

While cancer typically is diagnosed later in life, with nearly 60 percent of U.S. patients 65 or older when they are diagnosed, the recent study adds to the growing research suggesting an increase of early-onset cancers.

In a study published in JAMA Network Open last month, researchers found the incidence rates of early-onset cancers “increased substantially” between 2010 and 2019. 

Experts are still unsure of why early-onset rates are climbing, though some have suggested it might be due to increased screening and early detection of some cancer types.

Tags cancers early-onset cancer Global Burden of Disease study JAMA Network Open