Millennials are on their way to being one of the heaviest generations on record and now a new study published in The Lancet Public Health has found that “cancers fueled by obesity”1 are rising among young adults in the U.S. and “appearing at increasingly younger ages.”1 While not all obesity is caused by diet, there are many diseases that can cause obesity that themselves have a food component.
The study examined data on 12 obesity-related cancers between 1995 and 2014, as well as 18 common cancers not associated with weight, and found a disturbing trend among adults age 24 to 49.
“‘The risk of cancer is increasing in young adults for half of the obesity-related cancers, with the increase steeper in progressively younger ages,’ said co-author Ahmedin Jemal, who is the vice president of the Surveillance and Health Services Research Program for the American Cancer Society.
‘The findings from this study are a warning for increased burden of obesity-related cancer in older adults in the future,’ said Jemal, ‘potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades.'”1
The six obesity-related cancers, that have typically shown up in people in their 60s and 70s, showed startling increases among younger adults (at a time when “overall cancer incidence is decreasing in males and stabilizing in women in the US,”): 1
- colorectal- the risk is now double the rate baby boomers had at the same age
- endometrial- the risk is now double the rate baby boomers had at the same age
- pancreatic- typically diagnosed in people over age 65, the analysis found the average annual increase for pancreatic cancer was 4.34% for ages 25 to 29, 2.47% in people aged 30 to 34, 1.31% for those in the 35 to 39 age bracket, and only 0.72% in those aged 40 to 44 years.
- gallbladder- the risk is now double the rate baby boomers had at the same age
- multiple myeloma (a cancer of the bone marrow)
In contrast, rates in successive younger age brackets declined or stabilized in all but two of 18 non-obesity related cancers, including smoking-related and infection-related cancers. The two cancers not associated with obesity that rose in the younger age groups were gastrointestinal cancer and leukemia, a blood cancer.
Obesity is not just a problem in the U.S. though. Rather, it is a global epidemic. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 billion adults are overweight, with at least 300 million of them considered clinically obese.
But, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than 40% of Americans are obese, as are one in every six children ages 2 to 19. (That latter figure alone should shock and mobilize us.) And a study in the New England Journal of Medicine last year found that by the age of 35, almost 60% of our nation’s children and teens will be obese if the trend continues. Those are not figures we can sustain.
But if that’s the case, why isn’t the general public more concerned? Perhaps because they don’t know. (In my humble opinion, conventional doctors are taught more about pushing pills than getting to the bottom of an issue. Hence an overweight person gets diabetes meds and continues to eat an unhealthy diet, gaining more weight as the years go on.)
Case Western Reserve University oncologist Dr. Nathan Berger, who was not associated with the American Cancer Society study, runs a lab focused on obesity and cancer, and believes that one possible reason for the cancer obesity link is that some hormones match receptors in certain cancers but not others; gain weight and stimulate tumor growth:
“We know in animal models that obesity accelerates the onset of cancer. And we know in people that obesity is associated with an increase in cancer and a worse prognosis for patients who have cancer. That’s well established.”1
Now that conventional, medical research has shown an association between cancer and obesity, doctors and policymakers need to wake up. It’s time even, “to make the public aware that there’s no time that it’s OK to be obese.”1