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June 11, 2024

Rise in cancer rates in younger people

In June CRUK published their finding that cancer rates have risen by 22% in people aged between 25 and 49 years of age over the years between the 1990’s and 2018. It represents an unexpected rise, and larger than any seen in other age groups. The trend suggests that more younger adults may be getting a cancer diagnosis than ever before. Although 90% of all cancers affect people over the age of 50, it’s a worrying trend. 


But what’s behind the trend, and how can it be explained?


The latest thinking suggests that chronic inflammation might play a significant role in the development of cancer – it’s a factor in 1 in every 4 cancers. But it raises the possibility that the effects of inflammation could be reversed, offering hope to thousands of people at risk. The importance of looking after our guts by supporting a healthy balance in the microbiome is coming into focus as a potential way to reduce the risk of cancer. 


Scientists have already proven that changes in diet and lifestyle are risk factors in rising cancer rates, especially the introduction of processed and refined foods with higher levels of sugar. Environmental factors are also coming under increasing scrutiny as the adverse health effects of exposure to toxins and chemicals in the environment are closely examineded. Thousands of chemical substances can mimic the actions of the endocrine system, disrupting its healthy action. They are known as EDCs, or endocrine disrupting chemicals.


What are EDCs? 

EDCs are chemical substances that can interfere with the normal actions of the endocrine system which carries out key functions such as fertility, growth, and metabolism. Hormones produced by the endocrine glands are tightly regulated, in terms of how they are produced and sent out as hormonal messengers to instruct the body’s organs to function correctly. Hormones are normally active in the human body at very low doses and are extremely sensitive to disruption by chemicals that mimic or block these normal healthy actions, even if they are present at low, undetectable levels.


So called endocrine disruptors change the amount of hormone released as well as their concentration in the bloodstream, resulting in a wide range of adverse health outcomes. For example, during pregnancy hormone levels can be disrupted by EDCs that can bring about changes in foetal development, including lower birthweight and later childhood cognitive development. 


How are we exposed to EDCs? 

Endocrine disrupting chemicals can enter the body from a wide range of environmental sources – the air we breathe indoors and outdoors, our food and drink, and products that touch our skin. We are exposed to EDCs throughout our lives at levels that can be detected in our urine, blood, and body tissue. We usually expel pollutants from our body via urine, sweat, stools, sweat, and breath, but endocrine disrupting chemicals can accumulate in our bodies, even when we’ve reduced or removed the source of exposure, creating a body burden. 


The link between EDCs and cancer 

Exposure to pesticides and herbicides, thought to have endocrine disrupting properties, have been linked to rises in some forms of cancer. For example, glyphosate used to kill weeds has been linked with increases in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, renal tubule carcinoma, pancreatic islet-cell adenoma, and skin tumours. EDCs have been linked with a range of cancers, including some types breast cancer which are hormone sensitive.


How important is diet and healthy lifestyle? 

CRUK advise that eating a healthy diet and regular exercise are critical to reducing cancer risk. Whilst research is ongoing, there are compelling reasons to consider the effects of chemical exposures in what we eat, and products that rely on chemical formulations in our everyday lives. Ultra processed foods are easily avoided, and choosing organic foods produced without pesticides is an easy switch to make. 


For more ideas on how to reduce your exposure to everyday toxins and chemicals visit our news section here. 


The information on our website should not be used as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter, you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider. is not responsible for the content of external websites. The inclusion of a link to a third-party website should not be understood as an endorsement.  


Image credit: Drazen Zigic

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