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Expand chart
Data: American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Millennials are facing a much higher risk of obesity-related cancers than baby boomers did at their age, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health Monday.

Why it matters: The steepest increases for obesity-related cancers were in the youngest age group (aged 25–34 years) and are a warning that steps need to be taken by this generation to get rid of excess body weight. "The change in cancer trends among young adults is often considered as a bellwether for future disease burden," study author Hyuna Sung tells Axios.

Background: While scientists are not sure of the exact mechanism, there is "quite convincing evidence" that excess body weight increases the risks of some cancers, says Sung, principal scientist of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society (ACS).

  • Some theories behind this correlation are that excess body weight can affect inflammation and hormones, or that it's impacting the gut's microbiome.

What they did: Using a population-based cancer registry, researchers from ACS and the National Cancer Institute examined invasive cancers in people aged 25–84 diagnosed between 1995–2014 for 30 cancers, including 12 obesity-related ones.

What they found: Multiple obesity-related cancers increased significantly faster among the young adults (25–49 years) compared to older adults (50–84 years). "Indeed, the younger, the faster," Sung says.

  • Six of the 12 obesity-related cancers — colorectal, uterine corpus (endometrial), gallbladder, kidney, multiple myeloma, and pancreatic — showed increased incidences in young adults and in successively younger birth groups in a stepwise manner.
  • The risk of colorectal, uterine corpus, pancreatic and gall bladder cancers in millennials is about double the rate baby boomers had at the same age, per the report.
  • But, for almost all (16 out of 18) of the non-obesity related cancers (exception was gastric non-cardia cancer and leukaemia), cancers dropped or stabilized in successively younger generations — meaning the absolute risk of all cancers is lower for the youngest age groups. This included cancers related to HIV infections or smoking.

Why? Sung says while there are multiple factors involved, the obesity epidemic is happening because...

  • "[The] food environment we are living in promotes over-consumption of energy-dense, high sugar/nutrient-poor foods that are pervasive and much more affordable and available to all."
  • "Furthermore, physical activity has been 'engineered' out of [our] lifestyle due to energy saving technologies, such as via the use of cars instead of bicycles."

What's next: Three main steps need to be taken, Sung says.

  1. People need to adopt healthy lifestyles at younger ages. "Early lifetime exposure matters," she says.
  2. Physicians need to increase obesity screening and counseling. "Less than half of primary care physicians regularly assess for body mass index despite national screening recommendation," Sung says.
  3. Policymakers should broadly implement regulatory interventions like "restrictions on advertising calorie-dense food and drinks, taxes on sugary drinks, [and] urban planning ... to promote physical activity" through more sidewalks and bike lanes, Sung adds.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

NRA declares bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will seek to reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment."

The big picture: The move comes just months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.