Cancer boom among young people in the last 20 years: Burioni’s opinion

A dizzying increase in cancer diagnoses in young people around the world which for now does not seem to have any certain explanations. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, over the last 20 years, cancer cases in patients under the age of 50 in the United States have increased by approximately 13 percent, which is creating big questions in the scientific community, which is working to understand the causes and how to identify high-risk patients belonging to this age group. The news was reported on his social profiles by the virologist Roberto Burioni, who raised the alarm.

Burioni’s alarm

A disturbing fact: over the last 20 years there has been a clear increase in the incidence of some serious cancers among young people. And we still don’t know why” commented under the link to the WSJ article, the professor of Microbiology and Virology at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University of Milan.

According to what was reported by the Wall Street Journal, based on federal data collected in the United States, the diagnosis rate increased by 12.8 percent, from 95.6 cases per 100 thousand people under 50 recorded in 2000, reaching 107.8 cases per 100 thousand detected in 2019 (here we have reported the EU healthcare expenditure for cancer treatment each year).

As the American newspaper underlines, these numbers would be in line with the strong increase at a global level that also emerged from a study published in ‘BMJ Oncology’, in which the highest rates are attributed to North America, Australia and Western Europe. Doctors suspect that behind this growth in cancer diagnoses among young people there are lifestyle changes, such as a decrease in physical activity, an increase in ultra-processed foods and the appearance of new toxins.

The picture in the United States

In the United States, the cancer death rate has fallen by a third since 1991 thanks to reduced smoking, more effective treatments and early detection screening. But today, even if diagnoses continue to increasingly affect the elderly, the increase in early-onset tumors risks slowing down the progress made in the fight against cancer (here we reported a study on the nutrients of milk and meat as allies against cancer cancer).

In 2019, one fifth of new colorectal cancer patients were under the age of 55a figure that has almost doubled since 1995. And younger patients often receive the diagnosis when the cancer is in an advanced stage, so much so that mortality rates from colorectal cancer among those over 65 are decreasing, while they are increasing among those under 50.

“We are seeing more and more young people overturning the assumption that cancer is a disease of aging,” highlighted Monique Gary, medical director, oncology program, Grand View Health Pennsylvania.

“Patients are getting younger,” confirmed Andrea Cercek, co-director of a program for patients with early-onset gastrointestinal cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. According to the expert it would be “probable” that at the basis of the boom in tumors in the under 50s there is “some environmental change, something in our food, our medications, or something we haven’t yet identified“.