Responsible for the deaths of approximately a stark 10 million deaths per annum, cancer has become one of the most dominant causes of death worldwide as stated by the WHO. Cancer has been notoriously known for being a prevalent disease among elderly people. Nevertheless, a few recent studies have showcased that cancer has become increasingly common in people under the age of 50, with cases in these age groups increasing by about 80% since the start of the 90s.
However, an increase in recordings of this disease is primarily attributed to refined medical diagnoses and upgraded medical devices used for cancer detection, rather than to the augmentation of cases. This is not to say that certain wrongful practices have not helped in aggravating the matter, such as excessive eating, lack of sleep and alcohol abuse, to name a few.
Nonetheless, even if the likelihood of improvements seems quite bleak and unlikely, the medical field keeps its hopes high. Recent qualitative data has demonstrated that cancer recovery has almost multiplied in the last nearly half-century. Recent studies have additionally shown that 50% of patients will recover from the disease for more than a decade, which is quite an improvement.
What is Cancer
The human body is said to contain an astounding 100 million cells that grow and reproduce during a lifetime. These get repeatedly replaced as they age and as they display certain irregularities. When some of the signals responsible for the maintenance of the correct number of cells go wrong, cells begin to multiply excessively and the ageing or faulty cells do not die when they must. This can interfere with the body’s biological processes. When the genetic conformation of some cells gets altered, known as a mutation, this can ultimately give rise to cancer. There are two primary types of this genetic disease. The first is Hematologic/blood cancers, which are linked to cancer of the blood cells. The second is solid tumour cancers, which encompass all other cancers affecting tissues and organs in the body.
Why are rates increasing (under the age of 50)
A research report conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital assembled some noteworthy and astonishing results which aimed to answer the question of why cancer diagnoses are rising so dramatically. Shuji Ogino, a professor at Harvard Chan School and Harvard Medical School said that a critical phenomenon was detected. Known as the “Birth Cohort” effect, it argues that every group born at a later time, such as after a decade, is more at risk of acquiring cancer at a later stage in their lives as a result of unhealthy habits practised preliminarily. An extensive and detailed study tried to dig into the heart of the matter and shed light on the veiled reasons for this occurrence. Unsurprisingly, they conjectured that certain hazards such as smoking, following Western diets, sedimentary lifestyles, unregulated alcohol consumption and some others such as poor sleep were all possible contributors to this global widespread.
Excessive eating is linked to chronic inflammation in the body and abnormally elevated levels of insulin and a variety of other hormones. It has been found that the likelihood of acquiring cancer is greater the longer a person has been battling with obesity and the greater the extent of the chronic disease. For instance, a study carried out by the American Cancer Society announced in 2019 that cancers linked to obesity were two times more likely to develop in people under the age of 50.
Some major reasons for which rates of obesity have multiplied in the past few decades are due to low levels of activity and the increasing popularity of Western diets, which typically entail large sums of saturated fats, sugars, and treated foods, amongst others.
Although it may not seem shocking that unregulated drinking practices have made it to the list, this is arguably one of the most paramount factors delineating the sudden flux of various cancers, especially amongst younger age groups.
Firstly, acetaldehyde, a product of ethanol (pure alcohol), sticks to DNA and therefore causes irreparable harm to cells. This results in the unrestrained replication of cells, which is linked to the formation of cancer. In addition, the out-of-hand reproduction of cells is also caused by hormone modifications. For instance, the immoderate consumption of alcohol can escalate certain levels of hormones including oestrogen and insulin, which are associated with unhampered cell reproduction.
What’s more, alcohol can also cause straight injuries to delicate tissues and organs, which in turn increase the probability of absorbing carcinogens.
It is no surprise that smoking as a habit is a leading cause of the formation of various different cancers. This detrimental practice introduces the lungs to over five thousand different chemicals, of which around 70 are known for giving rise to this genetic disease. These cancer-causing chemicals injure DNA, including the trait that shields us from the infamous disease, and also impede cells from mending DNA harm. This can ultimately cause repeated damage to the same cells, which in the long term can accumulate, and subsequently lead to the formation of cancer.