‘Disturbing’ rise in cancer cases linked to obesity

Cancer rates among under-50s in the UK have risen by 24% since 1995, with experts linking the increase to obesity and junk food.

This is the sharpest increase compared to other age groups, with 10% among those over 75 and 14% among those aged 50 to 75.

This comes as the latest data from Cancer Research UK has highlighted that early-onset cancers have become ‘a growing cause for concern’.

In addition, the data revealed that some 35,000 between 25 and 49 in the UK were diagnosed with cancer in 2019.

These findings were discussed at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference, where scientists linked the increase to unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and obesity.

‘Tragic impact’

Professor Charles Swanton is chief clinician of Cancer Research UK. He said: ‘Over recent decades, there has been a clear increase in cancer incidence rates in young adults in the UK.

‘Evidence suggests that more adults under 50 may be getting cancer than ever before. You’re talking about a much younger population, often with young families.

‘Cancer has a tremendous, often tragic impact on families. We are seeing them through our clinics, it is disturbing and we don’t have a good answer as to why this is happening. We’ve got to get to the bottom of it.’

He added: ‘Around four in 10 cancer cases are preventable, and there are steps people can take to help reduce their cancer risk. Not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, being safe in the sun and cutting down on alcohol all make a big difference.’

This comes as a recent study revealed that obesity may contribute to 40% of new cancer cases.

After monitoring the weight and lifestyle of 4.1 million people over four decades, the researchers identified 332,500 cancers. Of these cases, 40% of these were linked to excess weight – previously it was believed that only 25% of cancers were obesity-related.

In addition, the data suggests that obesity is a factor in 32 types of the disease. This is more than double the number reported by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2016.

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