Researchers find alarming rise in cancer among young people across globe

A global epidemic of cancer among people younger than 50 could be emerging. (Source: CNN, CDC)
Published: Oct. 14, 2022 at 3:55 PM CDT
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(CNN) – More young people around the globe under the age of 50 are being diagnosed each year with early-onset cancer, according to a new study.

Dr. Suneel Kamath, a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said the variety of different cancers on the rise in young people really surprised him.

“The number of people that are presenting with advanced and unfortunately often incurable cancers in their 20s and 30s definitely seems to be skyrocketing,” Kamath said.

Early-onset cases are rising for 14 types of cancers, many of which affect the digestive system, according to a review of 44 countries’ cancer registries published in the journal Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology.

“The typical risk factors we think of that would cause these different tumor types are definitely different, specific to each one,” Kamath said.

The review mentions that sensitive testing happening more in young people could account for part of the upswing, but many, including Kamath, say it mostly comes down to lifestyle: obesity, diets rich in processed foods, smoking and alcohol consumption are among the factors.

Kamath said one of the most important things young people can do is advocate for themselves when something doesn’t feel right.

“Pay attention to, you know, what’s going on with your body,” Kamath said. “Some people are going to get some resistance from their medical team, and it does mean they need to push a little harder to get to the bottom of what’s going on.”