Obesity is shifting cancer to younger people

In a new study, researchers found a shift in obesity-associated cancers to younger people.

Typically, these cancers are diagnosed at higher rates among people older than 65.

The research was conducted by a team at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The team looked at the incidence of disease data nationwide from 2000 to 2016.

The data were from more than six million incident cancer cases from the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database, recognized as an authoritative source for U.S. cancer statistics.

Obesity-associated cancers included in this study include cancers of the colon and rectum (combined as colorectal), female breast, uterus, ovary, gallbladder, and other biliary organs, esophagus, stomach, liver and intrahepatic bile duct, pancreas, kidney and renal pelvis, thyroid, and multiple myeloma.

Cancers not included in the studies included lung cancer, melanoma, and brain cancers.

The researchers were struck by the shift in obesity-associated cancers to people in the 20 to 49 age group, but most notably to those in the 50 to 64 age range.

They found that the population aged 50 to 64 increased in number by nearly 52% in that time frame.

It also is notable that the percent increase of obesity-associated cancer cases was highest among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women and men.

The team points out that many of the people 50 to 64 years of age with cancers diagnosed in the years from 2000 to 2016 are now cancer survivors, and many will be part of incoming Medicare cohorts or are now covered by Medicare.

It also is likely that these individuals will be covered by Medicaid, given the financial burden of cancer care.

Thus, obesity-associated cancers have both a public health and public finance impact.

The team says public health practitioners and officials are wise to continue and even increase efforts to inform people about the adverse consequences of obesity and support people and communities in changing behaviors that contribute to obesity.

The study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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