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  • Posted April 8, 2024

Today's Young Adults Are Aging Faster, and That Might Help Spur Cancers

Younger generations are aging more rapidly, and this could be leading to an increased risk of cancer, a new study says.

People born in or after 1965 are 17% more likely to be experiencing accelerated aging compared to seniors born between 1950 and 1954, researchers found.

That faster aging is associated with a higher risk of certain cancers among adults younger than 55, also known as early-onset cancers, results show.

“Multiple cancer types are becoming increasingly common among younger adults in the United States and globally,” researcher Ruiyi Tian, a doctoral student at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a news release. “Understanding the factors driving this increase will be key to improve the prevention or early detection of cancers in younger and future generations.”

For this study, researchers analyzed blood data for nearly 149,000 people participating in the U.K. Biobank project.

The team used a set of nine biomarkers found in blood to calculate each person's biological age, or what age a person appears to be based on the condition of their body.

They then contrasted that to the person's actual age based on their birth date, as well as any cancers that had occurred among them.

For each single-unit increase in accelerated aging, researcher found an increased risk of:

  • 42% for early-onset lung cancer.

  • 22% for early-onset gastrointestinal (GI) cancer.

  • 36% for early-onset uterine cancer.

Accelerated aging also was associated with a 16% increased risk of late-onset GI cancer and a 23% increased risk of late-onset uterine cancer among older adults.

“By examining the relationship between accelerating aging and the risk of early-onset cancers, we provide a fresh perspective on the shared [causes] of early-onset cancers,” Tian said.

“If validated, our findings suggest that interventions to slow biological aging could be a new avenue for cancer prevention, and screening efforts tailored to younger individuals with signs of accelerated aging could help detect cancers early,” she added.

The team next will try to figure out why younger adults are aging at a faster pace, and why that is increasing their cancer risk.

Researchers presented their findings Sunday at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego. Studies presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Northwestern Medicine has more on biological versus chronological age.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, April 7, 2024

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