Cancers among under-50s rose by 79 per cent in last 30 years: Study

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There has been a striking 79 per cent increase in new cases of cancer among the under 50s around the world over the last 30 years.

According to a study published in the journal BMJ Oncology, the research has found that the fastest rise was in windpipe and prostate cancers while the heaviest death toll was seen for cancers of breast, windpipe, lung, bowel, and stomach.

The team led by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found that breast cancer accounted for the highest number of ‘early onset’ cases in this age group in 2019. Cancers of the windpipe and prostate have risen the fastest since 1990.

They estimate that the global number of new early onset cancer cases and associated deaths will rise by a further 31 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively, in 2030, with those in their 40s the most at risk.

The findings upend received wisdom about the types of cancers typically affecting the under 50s, researchers said.

While cancer tends to be more common in older people, the evidence suggests that cases among the under 50s have been rising in many parts of the world since the 1990s.

The researchers drew on data from the Global Burden of Disease 2019 Study for 29 cancers in 204 countries and regions. They looked at the incidence, deaths, health consequences (disability-adjusted life years or DALYs) and contributory risk factors for all those aged 14 to 49 to estimate annual percentage change between 1990 and 2019.

In 2019, new cancer diagnoses among the under 50s totalled 1.82 million, an increase of 79 per cent on the 1990 figure, the researchers said. Overall, breast cancer accounted for the largest number of these cases and associated deaths at 13.7 and 3.5 per 100,000 of the global population, respectively, they said. However, new cases of early onset windpipe and prostate cancers rose the fastest between 1990 and 2019, with estimated annual percentage changes of 2.28 per cent and 2.23 per cent, respectively, according to the study.