Millennial habits blamed for surge in early-onset cancer

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From vaping to diet: Lifestyle habits linked to spike in cancer cases in under-40s.

NEW YORK, March 28: Recent findings presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting have sounded an alarm regarding the surge in colorectal cancer cases among individuals under 40. Forecasts indicate a doubling of cases by 2030, with colorectal cancer expected to become the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the 20 to 49 age group within this decade.

Dr. Dimitra Lamprinaki, a researcher at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, emphasizes the concerning rise in asymptomatic cases and underscores the significance of early detection and treatment. The proliferation of lifestyle factors, including highly processed diets and increased alcohol consumption among millennials, is identified as a primary contributing factor to this trend.

Key factors driving increased cancer rates:

1. Vaping and poor oral hygiene: London-based clinic Pure Periodontics reports a notable uptick in gum disease among younger patients, attributed to sugar-laden diets, acidic foods, and the growing prevalence of vaping. This habit impedes blood flow to the gums, heightening susceptibility to infections. The resulting bacterial growth, notably Fusobacterium nucleatum, has been associated with various cancers, including breast, colorectal, and head and neck cancers.

2. High intake of processed meat: The consumption of processed meats such as sausages and bacon is linked to an increased prevalence of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in the stomach, a bacterium implicated in gastric cancer. Research suggests that chronic inflammation resulting from this bacterial colonization can progress to cancerous conditions.

3. Oral sex: Rising rates of mouth cancer, particularly among 40 to 49-year-olds, are attributed to human papillomavirus (HPV) transmission via oral sex. HPV-16, a strain of the virus, accounts for a significant proportion of cases. Casual sexual behavior, including deep kissing, has been associated with heightened cancer risk.

4. Ultra-processed foods: Certain bacteria, including Fusobacterium nucleatum and E.coli, thrive in the gut microbiome of individuals consuming ultra-processed foods. These microbes facilitate cancer progression by inducing cellular changes and compromising gut vascular barriers, enabling metastasis.

5. Excessive alcohol consumption: Testicular cancer, a common malignancy among young men, exhibits a correlation with excessive alcohol intake. Lifestyle factors such as high-fat diets and low fruit and vegetable consumption also contribute to heightened risk.

The emerging understanding of microbial involvement in early-onset cancers presents opportunities for targeted therapies, including phage therapy and vaccines. Harnessing this knowledge could revolutionize treatment approaches, with potential implications for personalized medicine and enhanced patient outcomes.

As research progresses, experts anticipate leveraging microbial composition data to inform treatment decisions, paving the way for more effective interventions tailored to individual patient needs.

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