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Accelerated Aging in Younger Adults Associated With Higher Cancer Risk

New research has found that younger generations are aging more rapidly than their predecessors, potentially putting them at higher risk for cancer. While chronological age reflects how long a person has been alive, biological age measures the condition of a person’s body, which can be impacted by diet, physical activity and other factors. In a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2024, held April 5 to 10 in San Diego, researchers analyzed health data for 148,724 U.K. residents. (The AACR also publishes Cancer Today.) By factoring in nine biomarkers linked with accelerated aging, they determined the individuals’ biological ages. Researchers found people born in or after 1965 had a 17% higher likelihood of accelerated aging compared with those born from 1950 to 1954, HealthDay reported. Additionally, accelerated aging was associated with a 42% increased risk of early-onset lung cancer, a 22% higher chance of early-onset gastrointestinal cancer and a 36% increased risk for early-onset uterine cancer. Experts said the findings could shed light on the causes of the recent increase in cancers among people younger than 55. “If validated, our findings suggest that interventions to slow biological aging could be a new avenue for cancer prevention, and screening efforts tailored to younger individuals with signs of accelerated aging could help detect cancers early,” Ruiyi Tian, a study author and a graduate researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, said in a press release.

Undergoing Radiation Before Surgery Could Streamline Breast Cancer Treatment

Swapping the order in which people with breast cancer receive treatment can speed up care and improve quality of life without impacting outcomes, according to a study published online April 5 in JAMA Network Open. Women diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer typically first have surgery to remove their breast, called a mastectomy, and then receive radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells. They must then wait six to 12 months before they can have reconstructive surgery because radiation can cause breast implant deformities and other postsurgical complications, ABC News reported. “Women requiring post-mastectomy radiation, particularly if they desire reconstruction, undergo multiple surgeries … and have poor quality of life while waiting for reconstruction,” Ronica Nanda, a radiation oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. Researchers proposed administering radiation prior to combined mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, reducing the number of surgeries and decreasing the wait time. In a phase II clinical trial, 49 women with breast cancer received radiation and then underwent a mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction. After a median follow-up of 29.7 months, no participants experienced reconstructive failure, with just one patient needing follow-up surgery, and none had a cancer recurrence. “The findings are not only promising but also highly significant, marking a potential paradigm shift,” Roberto Diaz, a radiation oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, who was not involved in the study, told ABC News. A phase III clinical trial began in April 2023.

Blood Test Shows Promise for Pancreatic Cancer Screening

A new blood test successfully detected nearly all stage I and II pancreatic cancers, according to study results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2024, which was held April 5 to 10 in San Diego. (The AACR also publishes Cancer Today.) While mammograms and colonoscopies are routinely used to catch early cases of breast and colorectal cancers, respectively, no pancreatic cancer screening test exists to find the disease before it has reached an advanced stage, when treatment options are limited. Scientists are exploring whether liquid biopsies—tests that search for specific cancer indicators in the blood before people begin to show symptoms—could work in pancreatic cancer. Researchers developed a test that can find eight microRNAs shed by pancreatic cancer cells into the bloodstream, as well as a protein associated with the disease, CNN reported. They collected blood samples from 984 people, many of whom had been previously diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Among the 332 U.S. participants, researchers found the test detected 97% of stage I and II pancreatic cancers and reported false positives less than 5% of the time. “That’s why it is very important that this blood test is so good that it can, 97% of the time, find the cancers at the earliest possible stages where we can intercept the cancer, where we can intervene, and we can surgically remove this cancer effectively,” Ajay Goel, senior author of the study and a researcher at City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute in Duarte, California, told CNN.