Cancer before 50 rising; experts on simple lifestyle changes to cut risk

Updated on Sep 14, 2022 08:25 PM IST

The cases of early onset cancer seem to be increasing due to factors like alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, obesity, smoking and consumption of highly processed foods. Expert on lifestyle changes to cut cancer risk.

Over recent decades, more and more adults under the age of 50 are developing cancer.(Pixabay)
Over recent decades, more and more adults under the age of 50 are developing cancer.(Pixabay)
By, Delhi

Cancer cases in people under 50 are on dramatic rise around the world, found researchers in a recent study. The cases of early onset cancer seem to be increasing due to factors like alcohol consumption, sleep deprivation, obesity, smoking and consumption of highly processed foods. The study, published recently in the journal Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology says that the risk of getting early onset cancer is increasing with each generation and will continue to climb in successive generations. (Also read: Asymptomatic breast cancer: Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention)

Cancer, one of the leading cause of death worldwide, happens due to modifiable and unmodifiable causes, and making changes in lifestyle could reduce risk of the deadly disease significantly. In fact, the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare recently recommended in its 139th report to Rajya Sabha that cancer must be made a notifiable disease as to determine the accurate incidence and prevalence of the disease in the country.

"Over recent decades, more and more adults under the age of 50 are developing cancer. A recent study revealed that the incidence of early onset cancers (those diagnosed before age 50), including cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, and pancreas among others, has dramatically increased around the world. Colorectal, uterine, thyroid and kidney cancer have all been linked to obesity, which has been increasing in children and young adults," says Dr G. Vamshi Krishna Reddy, Director-Oncology Services, Consultant Medical Oncologist & Hemato Oncologist, Yashoda hospitals Hyderabad.

"Early life exposome, which encompasses one's diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures, and microbiome, has changed substantially in the last several decades. Thus, factors like the westernized diet and lifestyle might contribute to the early-onset cancer epidemic," adds Dr Reddy.

"If we try to divide the causes or the risk factors of cancer it can be broadly classified as modifiable and non-modifiable causes. Modifiable causes include- sedentary lifestyle, tobacco consumption, alcohol consumption, obesity, dietary food, stress, absence of exercise, occupational hazards etc. and the non-modifiable factors usually are the genetic factors in which the genetic makeup of the cell is at fault and is transferred through genes from one generation to other (hereditary cancers) and the non-hereditary cancer which are due to sporadic changes in the cell line like exposure to UV light, ionizing radiation etc," says Dr Sunny Jain, HOD & Sr. Consultant Oncology, Marengo QRG hospital, Faridabad.

Alcohol consumption is primarily linked to oesophageal and oral cancer, and even moderate intake is associated with an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancer.(AFP/Istock)
Alcohol consumption is primarily linked to oesophageal and oral cancer, and even moderate intake is associated with an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancer.(AFP/Istock)

CAUSES OF CANCER IN YOUNG

1. SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE

Inactivity and obesity lead to close to 20 lakh deaths each year due to major chronic diseases, including type II diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Cancers of the colon and breast have been linked to obesity, making physical activity a very important modification for cancer prevention.

CANCERS DUE TO OBESITY

Obesity is also related to cancer of endometrial, renal, and oesophageal cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has proposed recommendations for public health action on managing obesity.

2. WRONG DIET

"For many decades we as a clinician and many researches have been trying to identify a diet-cancer connection. Any diet which is rich in fruits and vegetables, high is fibre content, with limited red meat and animal fat, including a daily multivitamin with folate is considered a healthy diet. Research has shown a reduction in chances of prostate cancer in males consuming tomatoes. It is postulated that the carotenoid lycopene is responsible for this protective effect," says Dr Jain.

ROLE OF DIET IN CAUSING AND PREVENTING CANCER

- Vitamin B - Folate helps in synthesis, methylation, and repair of DNA. Studies have found that as folate intake increases, the risk of adenomatous polyps and decreases the chances of colorectal cancer.

- Vitamin A and carotenoids have shown to decrease risk of breast cancer, some studies also suggest decrease risk of lung cancer.

- Alcohol is considered to be independent carcinogen as it acts as solvent (causing carcinogens to penetrate the mucosa), an irritant (causing increased cell turnover), and also may be a transporter (leading carcinogens to the basal layer of the mucosa). Alcohol consumption is primarily linked to oesophageal and oral cancer, and even moderate intake is associated with an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancer.

Processed food is one of the risk factors for cancer(Shutterstock)
Processed food is one of the risk factors for cancer(Shutterstock)

CUTTING CANCER RISK

While one cannot make sure to not get cancer, making healthy lifestyle changes does help reduce the risk.

Dr G. Vamshi Krishna Reddy suggests tips to prevent cancer:

Say no to smoking

• Not smoking is the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the entire body, not just our lungs. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health is quit.

Keep a healthy weight

• Keeping a healthy weight has lots of health benefits, including reducing the risk of cancer.

Have a healthy balanced diet

• Having healthy food and drink can reduce your risk of cancer. Aim to have plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain foods high in fibre and healthy proteins. Cut down on processed and red meat, alcohol and high calorie foods and drinks.

Avoid alcohol

• Cut back on alcohol as it reduces your risk of 7 types of cancer. It doesn't matter what type it is - all alcohol can cause damage. Whatever your drinking habits, drinking less alcohol will improve your health.

Cancers on the rise in younger adults that are linked to obesity:

• Kidney Cancer

• Pancreatic cancer

• Gall bladder cancer

• Uterine cancer

• Colon and rectal cancer

• Multiple myeloma

"Cancer rates are rising among young adults, it is suggested to adopt healthy lifestyle and attention must be paid to symptoms and comprehensive family histories should be taken into account so earlier screenings can be offered," concludes Dr Reddy.

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