Why are cancer rates rising among those under 50? (VIDEO)

More people are being diagnosed with cancer, especially those under the age of 50, but why?

At 41, Barney Morris was thriving.

“I was a federal agent at the time, moving up the ladder quickly. I was a major in the US Air Force,” he said.

But all of that came to a screeching halt. Annual check up when his doctor gave him the shocking news: he had prostate cancer.

“I thought he was in perfect health. He had absolutely no symptoms,” Morris said.

A recent study in nature magazine found that prostate cancer is among 14 different cancers that are increasing among adults under the age of 50 at an alarming rate. Cancers of the breast, colorectal, endometrium and esophagus, head and neck, pancreas, liver, stomach, thyroid and multiple myeloma increased significantly between 2000 and 2012. Researchers say all of these cancers have specific risk factors in common, such as diet , lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures and our gut microbiome.

Dr. Shad Marvasti believes that conventional medicine does not focus enough on these risks when it comes to treating disease.

“We do drugs, surgeries, nutrition is secondary, but there is a great need because drugs alone are not going to solve our problems,” Mavasti said.

The study authors note that more cancer diagnoses may be related to earlier and more effective detection. But cancer screening in the US has plummeted during the pandemic. The government estimates 9.4 million projections that normally would have occurred in 2020, but never did.

Dr. David Lindner is a pulmonary and critical care physician at NCH Healthcare System.

“So instead of us diagnosing stage one and two, where surgical cure and other therapy options are available, we’ve unfortunately seen an increase in stage three and four cancers,” Lindner said.

The researchers also noted a connection to the “birth cohort” effect. That means each generation has a higher risk of developing cancer because of the risk factors they were exposed to when they were younger. For example: People born in 1960 have a higher risk of cancer than those born in 1950. While the researchers didn’t pin down the specific factors that drive the birth cohort effect, they do have a few theories, starting with what we put into our bodies .

“Researchers have shown in the United States and around the world that the number one risk factor for premature disease, illness and preventable death is diet,” Mavasti said.

Last year, researchers at New York University found that almost 60% of the average American diet is made up of processed foods. Two large studies this year found that men were 29% more likely to develop colorectal cancer if they ate ultra-processed foods, such as frozen dinners, cold cuts, and soft drinks.

“These processed foods have been linked to the diseases of our time: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, even the weakening of our immune systems,” Mavasti said.

The cancer study noted that since the 1950s, the amount of processed food Americans eat has increased dramatically. Scientists think those foods are affecting the microbes in our gut microbiome, which help with digestion and immunity. A study in the journal Frontiers showed that our gut is vital in predicting how our body responds to cancer therapies, disease progression, and ultimately whether we live or die.

Registered dietitian Betsy Opyt said healthy food is key to a healthy gut and a healthy life.

“We can think of our gut as our first line of defense. That’s what helps us build our immune system, assimilate vitamins and minerals into our body,” Opyt said.

The cancer study found that alcohol also contributed to rising rates and pointed to increased alcohol use among teens since the 1990s, and heavy drinking among adults in recent decades.

Professor Davd Jurnegon, who studies the influence of alcohol advertising and marketing, said many people don’t realize the government lists alcohol as a carcinogen.

“Also, if alcohol is, if your body processes alcohol, right, it turns into acetaldehyde, which is also a carcinogen,” Jurnegon said.

Lack of sleep could also increase your risk of cancer. The cancer study said that children sleep much less today than they did two decades ago. The researchers also noted that irregular sleep could lead to metabolic problems such as obesity or type II diabetes, which are other risk factors.

Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Audrey McKernan said managing sleep and stress are vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“Because typically when people have poor sleep patterns or are very stressed, they’re making poor decisions and it makes it harder for them to stick to the plan long-term,” McKernan said.

If all of this seems overwhelming, health experts say there are many things you can do to lower your risk of cancer. Depending on your age, annual screenings may not be necessary, but they’re always a good idea if you’re experiencing any abnormal symptoms. As for prevention: Dr. Shawn Dason of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center said your best defense may be a healthy lifestyle.

“If you really don’t smoke, keep your weight in moderation, keep your diet fairly balanced and see your health care provider regularly, get all your preventative health care checkups, I think, as far as medical science and knowledge knows today, those are the best things you can do to take care of your health,” Dason said.

Most doctors don’t recommend regular cancer screening until you’re fifty. But for Morris, early detection of cancer saved his life.

“Would you rather deal with a few seconds of awkwardness? Or would you rather die?” Morris said.

Barney not only beat his cancer, he beat it twice.

And doctors stress: it’s never too late to live a better, healthier life.

Leave a Comment