Health Officials Sound Alarm On Rising Cancer Rates In Young Americans

Fewer people are dying from cancer today than they were 30 years ago, but a lot more younger people are being diagnosed with the disease.

A new report issued by the American Cancer Society revealed that deaths from cancer declined by one-third since back in 1991, which means that 4.1 million deaths were averted.

At the same time, cancer diagnoses have increased, plus more people are getting cancer at an earlier age than ever before.

Experts have said that one major reason why deaths from cancer have gone down is because people are smoking a lot less than they used to. In addition, treatments have improved and therapies have become much more targeted than before.

Yet, these same experts have said it’s very troubling to see so many people who are 50 years older and younger being diagnosed with certain cancers.

In particular, colon cancer diagnoses and deaths have increased among younger people over the last 30 years. In fact, colon cancer has become the leading cause of death for men who are younger than 50 years old, and the second on the list for women of that same age.

Combined, breast and colon cancer deaths now exceed deaths from lung cancer for people who are 50 years old and younger.

Dr. Larry Norton, who works as a researcher and oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kittering, recently commented to ABC News:

“It’s something that wasn’t represented in statistics yet — that there has been a creep toward younger age of onset of certain common cancers. Colorectal and breast are the dominant ones.”
It’s expected that the projected number of new diagnoses of cancer in the U.S. will be more than 2 million, or 5,480 new diagnoses every day. The same data shows that overall cancer death rates are declining, the report also shows that rates for deaths from six of the 10 most common deaths have increased in young adults.

The medical community hasn’t landed on a definitive reason why the rates for certain cancers are increasing for this age cohort, though they say it could be a result of increasing obesity rates as well as some environmental factors that might not be known at this time.

The American Cancer Society’s chief scientific officer, Dr. William Dahut, commented:

“I think we’re all grappling with what is the broadly spoken environmental factor, which is changing the cancer incidence and mortality amongst the young.”

Over the last few years, the age that people who have an average risk for certain cancers need to be for screening has dropped. Health officials changed the age for colon cancer to 45 from 50, and to 40 from 50 for breast cancer.

As Norton explained:

“Early diagnosis is really critically important for curing cancer. I like to find things earlier because it’s not only an opportunity to cure people who otherwise might not be cured, but it’s also an opportunity to cure them with less noxious therapy.”