In recent years, more specifically since 1990, the number of cases of cancer in adults under 50 years of age have increased dramatically. The estimate is from a study recently published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers indicate that early incidence was found in breast, colorectal, endometrial, esophagus, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, kidney, liver, bone marrow, pancreas, prostate, stomach cancer. and thyroid.
“We found that this risk is increasing with each generation. For example, people born in 1960 experienced a higher risk of cancer before they turned 50 than people born in 1950, and we predict that this level of risk will continue to rise in successive generations. “, explained Professor and Physician-Scientist at Brigham’s Department of Pathology, Shuji Ogino.
The study method was based on a detailed and extensive analysis of the available data on the increase in cases and the clinical and biological characteristics of the 14 types of cancer – in the literature and online -, comparing early to late onset (in people after 50 years) of the disease.
The researchers also looked at what the possible risk factors were that changed the “old pattern” of cancer occurrence. Upon review, they found that environmental influences and early-life biological responses, such as diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures, and the microbiome (all microorganisms that reside in human tissues and fluids), have changed substantially over the past few decades. .
Therefore, the likely hypothesis is that Westernized diet and lifestyle may be linked to the early cancer epidemic. The known and proven risk factors for cancer are alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, smoking, obesity and consumption of ultra-processed foods, for example.
One more piece of data found by the researchers that may reinforce the hypothesis is that there is no significant difference in the sleep duration of adults in the 1990s and those of today, but children are sleeping much less than they were decades ago.
Improved measures of localization and detection of the disease, through cancer screening programs, may also have been responsible for the increase, but scientists think this is unlikely to be the only cause.
The study also noted that the choice of ultra-processed foods such as sugary drinks, obesity, type 2 diabetes, sedentary lifestyle and alcohol consumption have increased significantly in recent years, which suggests that these factors are linked to microbiome change. .
“Among the 14 on the rise cancers we studied, eight were related to the digestive system. The food we eat feeds the microorganisms in our gut. Diet directly affects the composition of the microbiome, and eventually these changes can influence risk and outcomes. disease outcomes,” said the study’s lead author, Tomotaka Ugai.
The only limitation of the research was the fact that the scientists did not have access to a considerable amount of data from middle- and low-income countries. In the future, the researchers intend to collect more information and work together with international research institutes to monitor global trends in the disease. In addition, they emphasize the importance of including young children in long-term studies on the subject, so that they are followed up for several decades. “Without these studies (with children), it’s difficult to identify what someone with cancer did decades ago or as a child,” says Ugai.
He adds: “Because of this challenge, we intend to carry out more studies in the future, where we follow the same number of participants throughout their lives, collecting health data, potentially from electronic health records, and bio specimens at defined time points. Not only is this more cost-effective considering the many types of cancer that need to be studied, but I believe it will give us more accurate insights into cancer risk for generations to come.”
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