The rates for some cancers linked to obesity are rising among young adults in the USA, said a study led by the American Cancer Society.
The study published Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet Public Health found rates rising for six of 12 cancers tied to obesity – colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma and pancreas – from 1995 to 2014.
In some types of cancer, people born in 1980 to 1989 had double the rate of risk at the same age compared with those born in 1945 to 1954, the study said.
“Although the absolute risk of these cancers is small in younger adults, these findings have important public health implications,” study author Ahmedin Jemal, scientific vice president of surveillance and health services research with the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.
Jemal said the trend among younger adults could grow worse, “potentially halting or reversing the progress achieved in reducing cancer mortality over the past several decades.”
Incidences of cancer among young people in general is still much lower compared with older people. According to 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 183,000 new cancer cases among people ages 25 to 49. By comparison, there were more than 252,000 cases among those 65 to 69.
“The risk of getting colorectal, multiple myeloma or kidney cancer is still much less in a 25- to 49-year-old than someone in their 60s and 70s, but the rate is what is sort of surprising and concerning,” said Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The study also looked at rates for 18 cancers unrelated to obesity. Only two saw an increase, the study found.
Researchers used 20 years of data on incidences of 30 types of cancers from a database managed by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, which covers about 67 percent of the U.S. population.
Multiple studies have tied obesity to several health conditions, including cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. Last year, a report from the World Cancer Research Fund linked 12 types of cancers, including breast and colorectal, to being overweight.
The USA is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. A report released last September from nonprofit groups Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found seven states had adult obesity rates over 35 percent in 2017, while only two states, Hawaii and Colorado, had obesity rates below 25 percent.
The report found obesity costs an estimated $149 billion annually in directly related health care spending and an additional $66 billion a year in lowered economic productivity.
Dale Shepard, an oncologist with the Cleveland Clinic, said the study is a reminder patients and doctors should be more mindful of ways to prevent cancer.
“We need to pay a lot more attention to obesity and controlling it and doing things like diet modification and exercise,” Shepard said. “We know that both of those can also reduce the incidence of cancer.”
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.