More young people under 50 are getting cancer. Why?

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There are plenty of theories, including diets high in processed, fatty and sugary foods and low in fruits, vegetables, fish and fibre. Photo: Pexels
(Sharon Kirkey/ Healthing) — Dr. Shady Ashamalla remembers them all, vividly: Young people in their 20s or 30s, leaving behind young children, partners, parents, their cancers so advanced, when found, no surgery could save them.
They’ve become common in Ashamalla’s colorectal cancer practice at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. They’re also part of a pattern that’s become a disturbing medical mystery: What’s driving a striking increase in cancers of various organs in the under-50s?

“The epidemiological landscape of cancer incidence is changing,” an editorial in the journal BMJ Oncology recently warned after a global study found “early-onset” cancers — cancer diagnosed in people under 50 — increased by 79 per cent, and the number of deaths from those cancers by 28 per cent, over three decades.

Colorectal, breast, esophageal, gastric, and pancreatic cancers are increasing in people as young as 20 to 25 years old. In the U.S, colorectal cancer has moved up from the fourth leading cancer killer in men and women under 50 two decades ago, to the leading cause of cancer death in younger men, and the second leading (behind breast cancer) in under-50 women in 2021, according to an American Cancer Society report released last week. (…)

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