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Why Are So Many Young People Getting Cancer?

Cancer diagnoses are growing more common among adults younger than 50. By 2030, one recent study estimated, the number of these early-onset cancer diagnoses could increase by roughly 30 percent worldwide—and the number of people who die from their conditions could rise by about 20 percent. Early-onset breast cancer is becoming more common, with its incidence rising by almost four percent among U.S. women every year from 2016 to 2019, according to a 2024 study.

Cancer is a complex disease influenced by genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposures, so it’s unlikely that there’s a single explanation for the data. Instead, it’s likely a mix of things. Eating lots of processed foods, not getting enough exercise, and drinking too much alcohol are all risk factors for cancer, and all of those issues are widespread in modern life. To help lower the risk of cancer, everyone can benefit from evidence-backed health advice like eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of exercise, and not smoking or drinking heavily. But, ultimately, each individual’s chance of getting cancer is different.

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