Possible explanations, symptoms, numbers of the problem that will be at the center of attention of oncologists during the annual congress of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, starting on June 2 in Chicago
That the number of new cancer cases has been on the rise for some time is no news. The less known and much more worrying fact is that the proportion of those who fall ill before the age of 50 is also constantly increasingwithout fully understanding the reasons. It is certain that at least 40% of cases could be prevented in a very simple way, just by following correct lifestyles, but it is equally certain, unfortunately, that bad habits are increasingly widespread. The alarm was sounded by the experts gathered at congresso annuale dell’American Society of Clinical Oncology, kicking off on June 2 in Chicago, the most important event for oncologists from all over the world. According to the most recent estimates, one in three Italians will fall ill with cancer in his lifetime and cases in our country are on the rise – he confirms Saverio Cinieri, president of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (Aiom) —: almost 400 thousand were registered in 2022 and the growth, considering that they are more frequent pathologies after the age of 65, appears mostly connected to the general aging of the population. Advancing age is a determining factor in the development of a neoplasm: with the passage of time, in fact, the effects of various carcinogenic factors accumulate and the body’s ability to repair the DNA mutations that favor the formation of a tumor is lost.
Italy, which tumors before the age of 50
What is happening in young people? Over 90% of new cancer cases registered annually in our country, as in the rest of the world, concern citizens over 50 — he replies Matthew Lambertini, associate professor of medical oncology at the University of Genoa —. Recent studies are about to highlight us as well a progressive increase in tumors before this age, for reasons which are partly known and partly still to be studied. We know that a cause certainly to be found in risk factors that have unfortunately become very common, even in children and teenagers: sedentary lifestyle, incorrect diet, overweight, obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse. Other reasons remain to be understood. For example a lot is being investigated about some polluting factorsalso environmental, and on food additives. Based on the data collected so far, environmental pollution (particularly atmospheric pollution), which includes various carcinogenic substances from human activities (vehicle traffic, industries, domestic heating) or from natural sources (ionizing radiation, ultraviolet rays), responsible for the 5% of cancer cases. A share that it reaches 10% in the most polluted areas and that it could turn out to be even greater the more the conditions of the environment in which we live worsen. What are the most common cancers before the age of 50? In Italian men those of the testicle, cutaneous melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas (which are blood cancers), thyroid and colorectal. In women breast, thyroid, melanoma, colorectal and uterine-cervical cancer Cinieri says.
What types of cancer increase
However, it is not only these types of cancer that are growing. Research published in the scientific journal Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology by American researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed the cancer registries of 44 countries and found a surge in cases of 14 types of cancer in the 20-49 age group. The increase affected cancers of the breast, colorectal, endometrium, esophagus, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, kidney, liver, spinal cord, pancreas, prostate, stomach and thyroid. The risk of developing them has grown generation after generation, especially since the 1990s, and the highest incidence was recorded between 2000 and 2012 – explains Lambertini -. the so-called “cohort effect”: it means that those born in the 90s have a higher risk of developing early-onset cancer in their lifetime than those born in the 80s, and so on backwards. The study authors predict that the level of risk will continue to rise in subsequent generations. Since a neoplasm usually takes many years to develop (during which it accumulates numerous genetic mutations which are the basis of those DNA errors from which cancer originates), the researchers point out that, to explain tumors in people in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, we need to keep our eyes on the possible risks from childhood.
The crucial role of food and microbiota
Great attention goes, in particular, to what we put on the plate and on the balance: in the Harvard study, among the 14 early-onset cancers, 8 (colorectal, esophagus, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, liver, pancreas and stomach) they affect the digestive system. In this sense, more studies are also needed on the relationship between intestinal microbiota and tumors – says Cinieri -. Intestinal bacteria perform various physiological functions and form a physical-chemical barrier that protects the intestinal epithelium from attack by toxic substances or other bacteria capable of causing various pathologies. From here the link between microbiota and some infectious, chronic inflammatory, autoimmune diseases and neoplasms. We already know, for example, that our bacterial flora, by interacting with host cells, can influence the formation of colorectal cancerthrough various mechanisms.
Symptoms and tests before the age of 50
Lastly, what worries the experts is the fact that tumors in people under 50 are often more aggressive than in the elderly. Both for the biology of the cancer itself, and because it often happens that young people arrive late at diagnosis and therefore we have advanced stage neoplasms. It is no coincidence that the European Union recently recommended that screening begin at the age of 45. Although many Italian regions have already anticipated free checks for early diagnosis, still too many compatriots refuse the invitation to do mammography, Pap or HPV test, fecal occult blood test. In addition to accepting the opportunity offered by our NHS and doing these life-saving examsanomalies should never be overlooked, at any age – underlines Cinieri -. Self-examination of the breasts and testicles, starting from the age of 20, a precious first step, at no cost and simple. Girls should then speak to a breast specialist and start annual checkups starting at age 40 (or earlier, if familiar). For the cervix, he pap test it is already offered from the age of 25 and at 30 we start with the HPV test. Also recommended for kids an annual visit to the urologist from 40 years old. Males and females should then see a dermatologist once a year and don’t overlook obvious changes in moles. Blood in the urine or faeces, palpable masses anywhere on the body, swollen lymph nodes, fever or pain that doesn’t go away: there are many possible alarm bells, it all depends on the location of the tumor. You cannot make a complete list, there is one rule – concludes Lambertini -: if you notice something strange, without panicking, talk to a doctorwithout wasting time which could be very valuable in the event of a cancer diagnosis.
June 2, 2023 (change June 2, 2023 | 08:17)
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