Researchers also found higher rates among Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans. They say the findings should be a ‘call to action’ for more research and different treatment
More Americans under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with cancer, and a new study finds higher rates of early-onset cancer among younger women.
Researchers also found higher rates of cancer among Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and American Indian or Alaska Native populations. The findings appear in a study published Wednesday on Jama Network Open.
Breast cancer was the most common cancer among those under the age of 50, but gastrointestinal cancers had the fastest rate of growth, researchers found. Among age groups, researchers also found the highest jump among Americans between the ages of 30 and 39.
“This nationwide study provides updated evidence that the incidence of early-onset cancers in the US is increasing and highlights several disparities,” the authors wrote.
The rise in cancers among younger Americans comes even as there’s been a dip in cancer rates for those over 50, researchers found.
Researchers examined more than 562,000 patients with early-onset cancers from 2010 to 2019. They found a decline in the cancer rate among men under 50, and Black and white Americans also had lower incidences of cancer, according to the study.
Here are more details on some of the key findings.
Why it matters
Cancer is typically associated with those over the age of 50, so researchers say the rise in younger Americans merits serious attention. Younger patients often have more aggressive cancers, with higher acuity and mortality, the authors note.
With more patients under 50 having cancer, the authors suggest that it should lead physicians and health systems to consider different treatment options.
“There is a need to inform healthcare professionals about the increasing incidence of early-onset cancer, and investigations for possible tumors need to be considered when clinically appropriate, even in patients younger than 50 years,” the authors stated.
Why it’s happening
The researchers say more study is needed to determine what’s fueling the increase in early-onset cancers, and why there are significant disparities among certain groups. The authors said they hope the study serves as “a call to action” for policymakers to undertake more research, including environmental factors that could be at play.
The number of women with early-onset cancers rose 4.35% from 2010 to 2019. Conversely, the number of men under 50 with cancer dropped 4.9%.
Overall, the number of cancers among those under 50 rose 0.74%.
Asian and Pacific Island individuals witnessed the highest increase in early-onset cancers, an increase of 32% from 2010 to 2019. There was also a 27.6% increase among Hispanic Americans, researchers found. Among American Indian or Alaska Native individuals, the increase was about 2.3%.
There was a 12.2% decline in early-onset cancers among white Americans, and a 4.7% drop in cancers in Black Americans.
Types of cancers
More young patients are being diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers found. Breast cancer was the most common cancer among those under 50, and researchers found a 7.7% increase in early-onset breast cancer from 2010 to 2019.
Researchers found the highest increase in early-onset cancers in the gastrointestinal system (14.8%). The study found that in 2019, the most common early gastrointestinal cancers were in the colon and/or rectum, stomach, and pancreas.