Cancer in US teens has soared since 1970s, study finds

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More teens are being diagnosed with kidney, breast, colorectal and other cancers at an alarming rate, a new study found.

In the past 50 years, cancer cases among American teenagers and young adults have escalated by 30%, according to research by Penn State College of Medicine, which includes health profiles from over half a million cancer patients aged 15 to 39, between 1973 and 2015.

Kidney cancer diagnoses tripled during that time, followed by sharp rises in thyroid and gastrointestinal cancers. Breast and testicular cancers were most prevalent.

The report, published in JAMA Network Open this week, refers to changing lifestyle factors among young people since the ’70s which may have contributed to increasing cancer rates.

“Adolescents and young adults are a distinct cancer population,” said Dr. Nicholas Zaorsky in a statement on Penn State’s website. “But they are often grouped together with pediatric or adult patients in research studies. It is important to study how this group is distinct so that care guidelines can be developed to address the increase in cases.”

However, there were limitations to the study which used data released by the US National Cancer Institute: 60% of participants were women and 80% were white.

The most common cancer types in young males were testicular (19%), melanoma (10%) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (10%); for women, breast (25%), thyroid (17%) and cervical/uterine cancers (12%) topped the list.

Zaorsky suggested environmental and dietary factors may play a role as to why these particular cancers are on the rise.

“These cancers all have unique risk factors,” Zaorsky said. “Now that there is a better understanding of the types of cancer that are prevalent and rising in this age group, prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment protocols specifically targeted to this population should be developed.”

In an interview with UPI, Dr. Archie Bleyer, professor at Oregon Health & Science University, pointed to well-known trends toward obesity and poor nutrition, substance abuse, overexposure to UV radiation and unprotected sex.

Bleyer also noted that improved technology and screening during the past half-century have helped diagnose more cancer cases which may have been overlooked in decades prior, which may also have contributed to the recent surge.

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