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More Americans are being diagnosed with cancer at a younger age

A new report notes an increased cancer death rate for Black people and Native Americans compared to White people.
More Americans are being diagnosed with cancer at a younger age
Posted at 5:40 PM, Jan 17, 2024

Cancer deaths in the U.S. have dropped by over 4 million since 1991, but there's been a surge in cancer diagnoses happening at an earlier age.

According to a new report from the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50 and the second deadliest cancer for women in the same age group, following breast cancer.

“We’re encouraged by the steady drop in cancer mortality as a result of less smoking, earlier detection for some cancers, and improved treatment,” said the American Cancer Society's senior scientific director, Rebecca Siegel. “But as a nation, we’ve dropped the ball on cancer prevention as incidence continues to increase for many common cancers — like breast, prostate, and endometrial, as well as colorectal and cervical cancers in some young adults.”

The report states that cervical cancer rates increased by 1.7% annually in women aged 30-44 from 2012 to 2019. Teens 15–19 years old experienced a yearly rise of over 4% in thyroid cancer. Overall, cancer diagnoses are shifting to younger ages, with the proportion in the middle-aged group (50–64 years old) increasing from 25% in 1995 to 30% in 2019–2020, while those aged 65 and older decreased from 61% to 58%.

“People younger than 65 are less likely to have health insurance and more likely to be juggling family and careers,” explained the chief scientific officer at the American Cancer Society, Dr. William Dahut. “Also, men and women diagnosed younger have a longer life expectancy in which to suffer treatment-related side effects, such as second cancers.”

The report also states that uterine cancer is the only cancer with rising death rates across all age groups in the past four decades. However, due to growing racial disparities, the death rate for women of color is rising faster. 

The death rate is two times higher in Black women (about 9 per 100,000) than in White women (about 4 per 100,000).

Furthermore, the study states that Black people have double the mortality rates of White people for prostate, stomach, and uterine cancers. Similarly, Native American people have twofold higher mortality rates for liver, stomach, and kidney cancers compared to White people.

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