Shifting Patterns

Patterns of Obesity-Related Cancers Shifting Younger

Infographic - Cancers Associated with ObesityYet another study tells us that obesity may be re-shaping the patterns of cancer. Writing in JAMA Network Open, scientists from Case Western Reserve University tell us that obesity-related cancers are shifting into younger people. Like obesity, cancer is a chronic disease. So a shift into younger persons means more health costs and more suffering over a longer timespan.

More Than Six Million Cases

Siran Koroukian, Weichuan Dong, and Nathan Berger studied more than six million cases of cancer occurring between 2000 and 2016. That included about 2.7 million obesity-related cancers and 3.4 million others. They found the biggest increases in liver, gallbladder, and uterine cancers.

For the cancers related to obesity, they found a significant shift. More of them were occurring in patients aged 50 to 64. At the same time, incidence of new cases was dropping in older patients. Though they saw some increases in 20 to 49 age group, the biggest shifts were toward middle age.

They also saw a bigger impact in racial and ethnic minorities. For example, they saw a 198 percent increase in obesity-related cancers in middle-aged Hispanic men.

Short on Answers

These researchers know this finding has important implications for public health. But like most observers, they don’t have a lot of good answers for what to do about it. Koroukian told Medscape:

Physicians should urge young patients to maintain normal weight because obesity promotes or accelerates cancer. The literature suggests that obesity-associated cancers in younger patients may be more aggressive and present at more advanced stages, requiring more intensive therapy.

Sad to say, urging people to maintain a lower body weight is not terribly helpful. Obesity is a problem of physiology, not choice. Our culture is filled with prompts to lose weight, but it doesn’t move the needle. Actually, it mostly promotes frustration and stigma.

What’s really needed is more objectivity about what works, more curiosity about what will work better, and more care for the people affected. That’s what will move the needle.

Click here for the study, here and here for further reporting.

Shifting Patterns, photograph © Bill Gracey / flickr

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September 12, 2019

One Response to “Patterns of Obesity-Related Cancers Shifting Younger”

  1. September 13, 2019 at 9:49 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup. Scary data. And scary presentation when they don’t offer a more objective solution for those with the disease of obesity. And more reason to get control of the disease when it is identified – even if they are children.