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Research indicates that accelerated aging is associated with an increased risk of cancer among younger adults

Researchers investigating the surge in certain cancers among younger adults have uncovered a potential link to accelerated biological aging.

Traditionally, age has been a significant risk factor for many cancer types, with advancing years correlating with increased susceptibility to the disease. However, experts now recognize that age encompasses more than just chronological years—it also reflects the wear and tear on the body caused by lifestyle, stress, and genetics, collectively known as biological aging.

Dr. Yin Cao, an associate professor of surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and senior author of the study, presented their findings at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual conference in San Diego. The research drew from the UK Biobank, analyzing the medical records of 148,724 individuals aged 37 to 54.

The study focused on nine blood-based markers associated with biological age, including albumin, creatinine, glucose, c-reactive protein, lymphocyte percent, mean cell volume, red cell distribution width, alkaline phosphatase, and white blood cell counts. These markers were used to calculate each person’s biological age using an algorithm called PhenoAge. The researchers then compared biological ages with chronological ages to identify accelerated aging.

Results showed that individuals born in 1965 or later were 17% more likely to exhibit accelerated aging compared to those born between 1950 and 1954. Moreover, accelerated aging was associated with an increased risk of early-onset cancers, particularly lung, stomach and intestinal, and uterine cancers.

Although the study wasn’t designed to determine the reasons behind these associations, hypotheses suggest that certain tissues, like the lungs, may be more vulnerable to aging due to limited regenerative capacity, while inflammation, which escalates with age, could contribute to stomach and intestinal cancers.

While the study’s large sample size lends credibility to the findings, limitations exist, such as the lack of longitudinal follow-up and reliance on a single blood test. Ideally, future research would track individuals over time to capture changes in risk more accurately.

Despite these limitations, the study’s implications are significant. Dr. Anne Blaes, a professor at the University of Minnesota, believes that identifying individuals at higher risk of cancer due to accelerated aging could revolutionize screening and interventions. Lifestyle modifications, such as nutrition, exercise, and sleep, could mitigate risk, while medications targeting accelerated aging, like senolytics, show promise in slowing down cellular aging.

In summary, while further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between accelerated aging and cancer risk, these findings offer valuable insights that could pave the way for personalized cancer prevention strategies and interventions in the future.

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