Faster ageing linked to increased cancer diagnosis in young adults

Cancer incidence is rising at an alarming rate among younger adults. According to new research presented at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, faster biological ageing could be the driving force. While chronological age refers to how long a person has been alive, biological age denotes the rate at which a person’s body is actually ageing.

“Unlike chronological age, biological age may be influenced by factors such as diet, physical activity, mental health and environmental stressors,” the study explained. “Accumulating evidence suggests that the younger generations may be ageing more swiftly than anticipated, likely due to earlier exposure to various risk factors and environmental insults. However, the impact of accelerated ageing on early-onset cancer development remains unclear.”

To find out, researchers examined the data of 1.48 lakh participants in the UK Biobank database. Their biological age was calculated using nine biomarkers found in blood. Individuals whose biological age was higher than their chronological age were supposed to have accelerated ageing.

People born in or after 1965 were 17 per cent more likely to be experiencing accelerated ageing compared with those born between 1950 and 1954. Early onset cancers, often defined as cancers diagnosed in adults younger than 55 years, were more prevalent among those with accelerated ageing.

Accelerated ageing was associated with a 42 per cent increased risk of early-onset lung cancer, a 22 per cent increased risk of early-onset gastrointestinal cancer and a 36 per cent increased risk of early-onset uterine cancer. Accelerated ageing was also associated with a 16 per cent increased risk of late-onset GI cancer and a 23 per cent increased risk of late-onset uterine cancer.

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