Lifetime Cancer Risk Influenced During Early Adulthood

Alcohol consumption results in more than $150 million spent on breast cancer annually.

By 2020, more than 1.9 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer annually, highlighting the need for broad ranging preventive measures. A supplement published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine identified several factors in early adulthood—age 18 to 44 years—linked to cancer risk.

The identification of these factors provides the opportunity to implement new public health strategies to reduce cancer risk later in life, according to the study authors.

The authors investigated factors that may play a role in a wide range of cancers and health behaviors that increase cancer risk, including chronic diseases and inflammation. They focused on younger adults and unique risks they face.

A majority of cancers are thought to be the result of numerous factors over a person’s lifetime.

“A nuanced understanding of early adulthood and factors that place this age group at particular risk offers insights on how to avoid the cascade of longer-term negative health consequences as this population ages,” said author Claire D Brindis, DrPH.

The evidence linking behaviors and diseases to cancer risk was explored to develop strategies to reduce cancer risk that are more personalized, according to the study. The articles included in the supplement show the importance of how behaviors in early adulthood can impact cancer risk.

"Collectively, these papers illustrate the challenges and opportunities that exist when tackling cancer prevention at this stage of life,” the authors wrote.

The authors said that treating breast cancer related to alcohol consumption costs more than $150 million annually. By targeting this population and educating individuals about cancer risks related to alcohol, it is likely that cancer incidence and related costs would drop, according to the study.

The supplement also identified that mental health issues have not been traditionally thought of as a factor that contributes to cancer, but may directly and indirectly increase the risk.

The authors also suggest that interventions should be taken to increase breast feeding among black women, since it has been shown to reduce breast cancer risks, according to the study.

The authors also suggest public health initiatives to reduce cancer risks, including:

· Alcohol screening and intervention

· Education about cancer risks for young adults

· Efforts to counter the marketing of certain products

· Review of a health literacy program

· Use recreational spaces, such as bars, to reduce risky behaviors, including drinking and smoking

· Harness social media to broadcast about activities that increase cancer risk.

The supplement also highlighted differences in cancer risk depending on race, ethnicity, social status, neighborhood, and other characteristics, according to the authors. Logic models can be used to inform research programs into disparities reducing cancer risk.

"The growing impact of cancer, both in the US and globally, and the prevalence of modifiable cancer risk factors represent a window of opportunity to reduce cancer incidence at the population level," Dr Brindis said. "A comprehensive approach to cancer prevention considers the multiple and complex causal factors operating at different points in the life course. This approach also requires focusing on specific risk factors and the social determinants of health that contribute to the development of cancer and other preventable diseases."