NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Obesity is fueling an alarming increase in certain cancers among young adults. Research has found a disturbing trend, especially in millennials.
Carrying around too much weight carries with it an increased risk for 12 different kinds of cancer. The cancers are usually seen in the elderly, but researchers found half of them are appearing at higher rates in millennials — and at increasingly younger ages.
Local oncologist, Dr. Daniel Aruch told 10 On Your Side, “It’s the fourth leading cause of death in the 20 to 40 age group, which is sort of a startling number.”
Aruch, who works with Virginia Oncology Associates, explained how fat acts as a fuel for cancer.
“There’s growth factors that are there that aren’t in a healthy weight. For example, there are higher levels of insulin and other hormones. And that stimulates the growth of cancer,” he said.
A study recently published in the journal The Lancet found overall, the risk of colon, endometrial, pancreatic and gallbladder cancers in millennials was about double the rate baby boomers had at the same age.
“It’s very traumatic, even to be a physician, to see when a young adult gets such a difficult diagnosis,” Aruch said.
Aruch said because of this, colon cancer screening is now recommended at age 45, instead of 50. However, there are no screenings for many of these obesity-related cancers, so the death rate is higher.
Aruch said even when patients survive, there can be lasting emotional and physical effects.
“Certain types of chemotherapy or radiation can affect fertility. So, for example, when we have our young adults in particular, we always will let them know about sperm bank or to do egg preservation for women.”
Aruch’s prescription for prevention is simple: exercise, and eat a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
He said any amount of exercise and weight loss is better than none but he suggests speaking with your doctor about the right weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a BMI calculator on its website.