Obesity-Related Cancers Are Rising Among Millennials, New Study Says

Millennials are reportedly America's most active generation, but that does not exempt the younger demographic from disease. 

In fact, a recent American Cancer Society-led study says specific obesity-related cancers are on the rise in young adults (age 25 to 49), with the steepest increases in successively younger generations.

"Emerging Cancer Trends Among Young Adults in the USA," published Feb. 3 in The Lancet Public Health journal, analyzed 25 population registries for invasive cancer data among Americans age 25 to 84 who were diagnosed between 1995 and 2014.

The researchers assessed 14.6 million incident cases for 30 types of cancers and, in younger adults, uncovered rising rates in six cancers tied to obesity: colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma and pancreas.

The study states: "We found that, in the USA, the risk of developing cancer has increased in younger adults ... with a steeper increase in progressively younger ages and successively younger generations born since around 1950. ... These trends might have been influenced by the rapid rise in overweight or obesity prevalence in the USA. Between 1980 and 2014, overweight or obesity prevalence in the USA increased by more than 100 percent (from 14.7 percent to 33.4 percent) among children and adolescents and by 60 percent among adults aged 20 to 74 years."

The researchers speculate that obesity-related health conditions and lifestyle factors are contributing to the rise in select cancer rates. These include poor diet, gallstone development, the rise in diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

In order to curb these factors, the researchers advocate for "community-level regulatory interventions" such as soda taxes, restricted advertising and urban planning that promotes physical activity.

"Our finding of increasing incidence in younger generations for some obesity-related cancers has significant practical public health implications, especially for health-care providers and policy makers," the study states. "Despite national guidelines recommending screening of children and adults for obesity with appropriate provision of (or referral to) 'intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions,' fewer than half of primary care physicians regularly assess body-mass index in their patients, and only a third of obese patients report receiving an obesity diagnosis or weight loss counselling."

Obesity is currently responsible for 1 in 20 global cancer cases, according to data recently published in the December 2018 issue of the American Cancer Society's journal.

To view the complete Lancet-published study, click here.

Club Industry's December 2018 report, "America's Obesity Crisis and the Fitness Industry's Role in Resolving It," tackles the obesity epidemic. It can be downloaded for free by going here.