Hyuna Sung, PHD Principal Scientist, Surveillance Research American Cancer Society, Inc. 250 Williams St. Atlanta, GA 30303 

Younger Generations at Much Higher Risk of Obesity Related Cancers

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Hyuna Sung, PHD Principal Scientist, Surveillance Research American Cancer Society, Inc. 250 Williams St. Atlanta, GA 30303 

Dr. Sung

Hyuna Sung, PHD
Principal Scientist, Surveillance Research
American Cancer Society, Inc.
250 Williams St.
Atlanta, GA 30303 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This project was motivated by our previous finding on the rise of colorectal cancer among young adults before age 55. Changes in cancer trends among young age group have significant implications because the newly introduced carcinogenic agents are likely to affect trends among young people before they affect those among older people. Owing to this relationship, cancer trends among young people can be often considered as a bellwether for future disease burden. Given the dramatic increase of the obesity prevalence during 3-4 decades in the US, we wanted to expand the colorectal cancer finding to the more comprehensive list of cancers and explain them in the context of obesity epidemic.

MedicalResearch.com:? What are the main findings?

Response: We found multiple obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine corpus, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and multiple myeloma) increased significantly faster among the young adults (25-49 years) compared to the older (50-84 years). Indeed, the younger, the faster. The steepest increases were in the youngest age group, those aged 25-34 years. As consequence, according to our modeling approach, young generations are being at higher risks for developing these cancers compared to their counterparts in older generations. For example, compared to persons born circa 1950, persons born circa 1985 had from 1.6 to 4.9 times higher risks depending on cancer types.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our findings demonstrate an epidemiologic transition in cancer risks. That is, relatively speaking, the young generation are experiencing higher risks for obesity-related cancers compared to the old generation, while smoking- or infection-related cancers were more serious concerns for the previous generation. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: We just suspect obesity as one of the main contributors to the emerging trends among young adults. Because those cancers showing the patterns we had expected actually appeared in many of obesity-related cancers. However, our study didn’t provide how much of the trend can actually be accounted for by the change in the obesity prevalence. Future study should address this. Also, as cancers are multifactorial, epidemiological studies should also identify additional risk factors which may have caused the emerging trends among young adults. Studies focusing on early life time exposures will be helpful to better understand the trends.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

 Response: Given the prevalence of obesity, too many kids are projected to carry a longer cumulative exposure to carcinogenic effect of excess body fat than their parent generations. Most recent statistics from 2015-2016 shows 40% of adolescents and 72% of adults are overweight or obese in the US. I hope our study could call more attention to the targeted prevention efforts for childhood and early adulthood obesity.



Emerging cancer trends among young adults in the USA: analysis of a population-based cancer registry

Hyuna Sung, PhD Rebecca L Siegel, MPH
Philip S Rosenberg, PhD Ahmedin Jemal, PhD
Open Access The Lancet Public Health Published :February 03, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(18)30267-6

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Last Updated on February 4, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD