Why are so many people under 50 getting cancer?


By Annie Lennon  — Fact checked by Hannah Flynn

A backlit photo of a group of people standing
Cancer rates among adults younger than 50 have been on the rise in recent decades. Jim Bastardo/Getty Images
  • Researchers investigated the risk factors behind increasing cases of early-onset cancer, which are cancers that occur before the age of 50.
  • They found that lifestyle factors starting in early life and young adulthood likely influence early-onset cancer risk.
  • They concluded that longitudinal studies are needed to confirm their results.

Cancer occurs when genetic mutations cause cells grow uncontrollably and can occur in any organ or tissue of the body. According to the World Health Organization, the condition is the secondTrusted Source leading cause of death worldwide.


Whereas cancer typically affects people ages 50 years and older, studies indicate that, since the 1990s, the incidence of certain cancers has been rising among those under 50 years old in many parts of the world.

Early-onset cancers pose a higher risk of long-term health problems, including infertility, cardiovascular conditions and secondary cancers as well as side-effects from cancer treatment.


Understanding risk factors for early-onset cancers could aid their prevention, early detection, and treatment.

Recently, researchers conducted a review of various studies to determine possible risk factors for early-onset cancer.

They noted that lifestyle factors early in life such as diet, obesity, and environmental exposure may contribute to early onset cancer risk.

Dr. Andrew K. Dingwall, professor of cancer biology and pathology and laboratory Medicine at Loyola University, who was not involved in the study, said:

“One benefit from this type of analysis is that it provides an opportunity to engage in more directed discussions aimed at confronting these health disparities, which may have the potential to provide long-term health benefits to those affected communities.”

“The study provides [a substantial] view of the impact that diet, exercise, and environment might play in the development of early-onset cancers.”
— Dr. Andrew K. Dingwall

  • Credit: Medical News Today

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