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More Young People Get Cancer Than Ever Before. Is Diet To Blame?

In 2019, over 1.7 million new cancer cases and almost 600,000 cancer deaths were reported in the U.S.  Even though medical advancements have enormously improved how cancer is treated and how early it can be detected, we are still playing catch up against this chronic disease. 

If you look back just over a decade ago, there were 18.7 million people worldwide who received a new cancer diagnosis. Fast forward to 2019, and that number has ballooned to 23.6 million new cancer diagnoses worldwide. That is a significant jump in just under ten years. 

You can argue that some of that is due to earlier detection and better diagnostic tools and procedures, but the truth is that cancer deaths are also on the rise. If the uptick in cases were mostly just due to better technology and earlier detection, you would expect a drop in cancer deaths, which hasn’t been the case. Luckily, one of the things we have come to understand about cancer is that it is generally a disease that becomes more prevalent with age. Advancing age is still the most important risk factor for cancer in general and for many individual cancer types.

You shouldn’t worry about cancer until you are in your 50s – or so we thought. According to a brand new study published just last month, there is an alarming rise in cancer rates in people under 50. It turns out that cancer is getting a lot younger and fast. 

The study found that since 1990, younger people have become increasingly more likely to develop cancer in the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, pancreas, and eight other organs. And things get even more alarming. Researchers also point out that early-onset cancer tends to be more aggressive and harder to catch. 

There’s a strong speculation that cancer is at least partially caused by poor diet

So why is cancer trending in this direction? Unfortunately, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that over the past few decades, there have been significant changes to our diets, lifestyle, stress levels, obesity rates, exposure to environmental pollutants, and the makeup of our microbiome. 

Given that 8 out of 14 early-onset cancers in the study are related to the digestive system, there is strong speculation that diet, obesity, and our microbiome could play a significant role in this spike in cancer rates among younger people. There is already existing research to support the idea that an altered gut microbiome could impact tumor growth. 

The key takeaway? Cancer is getting younger, more aggressive, and harder to detect. While this might seem like some heavy information to digest on a Wednesday, the point of sharing this isn’t to stress or freak you out. While there isn’t one definitive answer as to why cancer is hitting younger, it is clear that lifestyle factors play a role in determining someone’s cancer risk. This means that your health is something you have almost complete control over.

The diet you eat, the exercise you do, the sleep you get, and everything else you do to optimize your health make a huge difference in your risk profile for developing cancer and all other chronic lifestyle diseases. Even if cancer is trending younger, it is well within your control to buck that trend and live a long healthy life. 

The statistics are just that – statistics. Remember that your health journey is something you will always have control over, no matter which way the statistics are trending. 

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