Since the 1950s, cancer rates have been steadily rising in adults under 50. Cancerous tumors in breasts, colons, the esophagus, livers, kidneys, and pancreas’ have all increased in prevalence, most profoundly since the 1990s, as Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology reported.
While we may not know for sure what is causing this rise in the prevalence of cancers in younger adults, we have some suspicions that diet and lifestyle may have more of an effect than is commonly attributed.
Why are cancer rates rising in young adults? First of all, not enough movement
For starters, we are much more sedentary than past generations. But moving less didn’t just happen on its own, nor did this trend pop up recently (although the past 3 years of a global pandemic definitely didn’t help).
From the industrial revolution to the digital revolution, more jobs require less physical movement, allowing more people to sit all day at work. Not only did the work environment change, but our social and entertainment environments also shifted. We spend less time outside walking, playing, or moving, and more time in restaurants eating heavy meals, or on the couch binge-watching the most popular TV series.
This shift from a relatively active lifestyle to a sedentary one over the past 70 years promotes the optimal environment for a cascade of health issues, including the development of metabolic disease when combined with an unhealthy diet (popular especially in the U.S.). This cascade of health issues can ultimately lead to the development of many types of cancers.
We eat for convenience
Another big player that appears to affect the development of different types of cancers is our diet. The way we eat affects our microbiome, which is the bacteria that live in our gut, breaking down our foods and destroying pathogens before they can affect our health. Over the past 70 years, processed foods have become increasingly popular as technological advancements have made food processing more complex. This increased complexity has essentially turned food into sugar faux-foods that are hyper-palatable and lack the essential nutrients our bodies need.
The increased consumption of processed foods wreaks havoc on our microbiome, destroying the variety of good gut bacteria, and promoting more bad gut bacteria. It turns out that this lack of diversity in our microbiome can actually play a key role in feeding cancer cells. Our microbiome, and all the work it does to promote our health, can be a double-edged sword. For all the good it does, it can also contribute to the development of many nasty metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.
So what do we do about it?
Our advice is always the same at 247Health: learn to eat a balanced diet full of whole and unprocessed foods, plus stay active throughout life. The best medicine is simple and effective and universally applicable. Of course, cancer can still develop in healthy bodies for other reasons, but that healthy body will also be better prepared to stave off illnesses when that day comes.