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Experts Concerned by the Rise in Young-Onset Cancers

RECENT COMPELLING evidence revealed by researchers at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA, has demonstrated a rising number of young people aged under 50 suffering from gastrointestinal cancers 

The study analysed the long-term South Australian Cancer Register’s data finding that between 1990 and 2017 the registry recorded a total of 28,566 patients diagnosed with colorectal, pancreatic, stomach or oesophageal adenocarcinomas. Of those diagnosed, 2,129 (7.5%) were aged between 18-50 years and therefore classified as young-onset cancers. 

“The trend observed in the young cohort of oesophageal, stomach, colon and rectum, and pancreas cancer cases was not mirrored in older individuals aged over 50-years”, stated lead study author, Savio Barreto, Gastrointestinal and Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary surgeon and researcher, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. “This increased incidence, though apparent in both sexes, was more pronounced in men compared to women.” 

Over the course of the study rates of cancers progressively increased amongst the young adult cohort, from an incidence rate of 9.30/100,000 people in the 1990s to 12.09/100,000 for the last 8 years of the study (2010–2017). 

“The biggest concern is that we don’t know what the causes for this disturbing trend are,” explained Claire Roberts, Matthew Flinders Fellow, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. “Young onset carcinogenesis is an area that warrants urgent research. We need to identify potentially modifiable factors that could enable us to stem the rising incidence rates.” 

Experts have debated the role that nutrition may play. Poor quality diets, obesity, and drug and alcohol exposure before birth could accelerate cancer development resulting in younger age groups being diagnosed with cancer. The study authors highlighted the importance of further research and intend to apply to funding to find the answers to the questions this research has raised.