More Younger People Are Getting Cancer

Uptick is particularly striking among women
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2023 12:17 PM CDT
More Young Women Are Getting Cancer
Stock photo.   (Getty/Rightdx)

The good news in a new assessment of cancer cases in the US is that numbers are decreasing for those ages 50 and older. The more troubling news is that cases ticked up among people younger than 50—particularly among women and those in their 30s, reports the Washington Post. The study in JAMA Network Open was based on data from more than 560,000 US patients monitored from 2010 to 2019. Some key findings.

  • The rate of cancer for people in their 30s rose nearly 20% in that span.
  • Gastrointestinal cancers (including of the colon, pancreas, and appendix) rose 15% among the younger-than-50 group, making it the type of cancer with the fastest increase, per HealthDay News.
  • Breast cancer accounted for the highest number of cancer cases among those younger than 50, increasing by about 8% in the decade.
  • Early-onset cancer (defined as cases in those younger than 50) rose by 4.4% among women, but declined 4.9% among men.

For context, cancer among younger people remains relatively rare—it is "not a common event," says Hyuna Sung of the American Cancer Society, who wasn't involved with the study. But she adds that the increase "has significant implications" and "is something we need to consider as a bellwether for future trends." Lead study author Dr. Daniel Huang of the National University of Singapore says it's unclear what's causing the spike, but he cited potential factors including obesity, heavy drinking, and smoking. "This is a population that has had less focus in cancer research and their numbers are getting bigger, so it's important to do more research to understand why this is happening," Paul Oberstein of the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Program at NYU, who wasn't involved in the study, tells the Post. (More cancer stories.)

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