But what if most of the cancer is caused in our formative years, or worse, before we were born.
A recent study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University states that this may be the case, especially in cancers that occur before the age of 50 (early cancer).
The most important finding in this study, published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology, is that people born after 1990 are, for example, more likely to develop cancer before the age of 50 than those born in 1970. This means that young people will be heavier. burdened by cancer Compared to previous generations, with knock-on effects on healthcare, economics and families.
The things we are exposed to in early life can affect our risk of developing cancer later in life, and this review of cancer trends looks at how these factors may affect early cancer. . What causes risk in early life is still not entirely clear, but up front include: DietLifestyle, environment and the insects (microorganisms) that live in our gut.
Looking at a large number of people, researchers can see that dietary and lifestyle habits are formed early in life. This is seen in obesity where fat kids More likely to be obese adults. Since obesity is a known risk factor for cancer, it follows that those adults are more likely to develop cancer at a younger age, possibly because they have been exposed to the risk factor for a longer period of time.
Of course, some of these early cancers are detected through better screening programs and earlier diagnosis, contributing to the increase in the number of new cancers diagnosed annually worldwide. But that is not the whole story.
Early-onset cancers have different genetic signs than late-onset cancers and are more likely to spread than cancers diagnosed in later life. This means that those cancers may require a variety of treatments and a more individualized approach that is tailored to the age of the patient at the time. cancer advanced.
The Brigham study looked at 14 cancers and found that the genetic structure of the cancer and the aggressiveness and growth of the cancer were different in patients who developed it before age 50 compared to those who developed the same cancer after age 50. did.
It appears to be more prominent in several types of bowel cancer (colorectal, pancreatic, stomach). One possible reason for this is related to our diet and microbiome. Gut bacteria are converted by high sugar diet, antibiotics and breastfeeding. And just as the patterns of these things in society change over time, so do the bacteria in our gut.
It could support the implementation of sugar taxes recommended by the World Health Organization.
If our healthy cells are programmed in the womb, it might be the cells that cause cancer. maternal diet, obesity and environmental exposures, such as air pollution and pesticidesKnown to increase the risk of chronic diseases and cancer.
Conversely, severe restriction of food intake in pregnancy, as seen in famine, increases the risk of breast cancer in the offspring. These two findings will have different implications for societal approaches to reducing cancer risk.
As a Hematologist, I care for many patients myeloma, which is an incurable blood cancer that usually affects patients over the age of 70 years. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of young people diagnosed with this cancer worldwide, which is only partly explained by better screening. This study characterizes obesity as an important risk factor for early disease, but clearly, other risk factors have not yet been uncovered.
Understanding what makes early cancers tick, which risks really matter and what can be done to prevent them are some of the first steps in developing prevention strategies for future generations.