February is National Cancer Prevention Month.
According to a study released last year, more individuals under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with cancer, both here in the United States and worldwide.
Some of the cancers include breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer and prostate cancer.
“It’s a very concerning trend for sure and one we see in clinic all the time,” said Dr. Kuneel Samath, an oncologist for Cleveland Clinic. “If you look at my clinic schedule, and I just kind of scan through the ages of the patients coming in, there are a lot more people in their 20s and 30s than there were in the past.”
Samath said there’s no one definitive answer for why people under 50 are getting early onset cancer. More research needs to be done.
However, according to the study, part of the rise in cancer cases may be due to people getting screenings done at a younger age.
Other factors may be related to dietary, lifestyle and environmental exposures.
The researchers also noted specifically that obesity seems to play a role.
Kamath said he agrees with that finding, especially since obesity rates have gone up since the 1950s.
Today, nearly 75% of Americans are considered overweight or obese. That number was under 40% 25 years ago.
“We know that calorie excess really causes a lot of harmful things in terms of metabolism, inflammation,” he said. “All of those things can be triggers for cancer and because excess weight is such a global risk factor, it really could affect many different tumor types.”
As far as prevention is concerned, Kamath recommends keeping a healthy weight, regularly exercising and eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
Also be sure to go to your annual screenings. Guidelines have changed in recent years, so make sure you’re up-to-date.