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Obesity is Shifting Cancer to Young Adults

A Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researcher has compiled evidence from more than 100 publications to show how obesity increases the risk of 13 different cancers in young adults. The meta-analysis describes how obesity has shifted certain cancers to younger age groups, and intensified cellular mechanisms promoting the diseases.

Cancer typically associated with older adults over 50 are now reported with increasing frequency in young adults. Of the 20 most common cancers in the United States, nine are now reported in young adults. In 2016, nearly 1 in 10 new breast cancer cases, and 1 in 4 new thyroid cancer cases were in young people aged 20-44, according to the review published in the journal Obesity. The data show that with obesity rising among younger demographics, so are cancer rates.

The new review integrates animal studies, clinical trials, and public health data to help explain rising cancer rates among young adults. It describes how the childhood obesity "pandemic" promotes cancer. It also offers approaches to better track and hopefully avert this public health crisis.

Young people with body mass indexes (BMIs) over 30 are more likely to experience aggressive malignancies, says author Nathan A. Berger, MD, professor of medicine, biochemistry, oncology and genetics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. According to his review, childhood obesity may have lasting effects that could lead to cancer early and late in life.

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