Cancer a real threat for young adults
October 30, 2006|By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, RedEye Chicago Tribune
Cancer in older patients often can be explained by decades of environmental influences, but cancer in young adults is usually random.
“They are mistakes of nature,” said oncologist Archie Bleyer, who specializes in young-adult cancer.
While those mistakes represent a small slice of the 1.4 million Americans diagnosed with cancer annually, their ranks are larger than many people think.
One in 210 people aged 15 to 29 develops cancer—almost triple the incidence of cancer among kids under 15 despite the much stronger spotlight shed on the younger patients, Bleyer said.
The lack of attention to young-adult cancer may explain why improvements in cancer survival rates among young adults have not kept pace with other age groups, he said.
Between 1975 and 2000, the five-year survival rate for 15- to 29-year-old cancer patients—that is, the percent of patients still alive five years after diagnosis—remained unchanged at 77 percent, Bleyer said.
During that same period, the five-year survival rate for children under 15 improved from 56 percent to 84 percent, and for people over 45 survival rates increased from 47 percent to 66 percent.
Delayed diagnosis in young adults is one culprit in that trend.
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