Cancer is increasingly affecting younger adults, prompting researchers to explore new leads, such as a link to accelerated biological aging.

Dr. Yin Cao, an associate professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, presented the new research at the American Association of Cancer Research’s annual conference in San Diego last month. She emphasized the need to understand biological aging’s role in younger cancer populations.

In the study, Cao and her team analyzed medical records from 148,724 participants aged 37 to 54 in the UK Biobank. They focused on nine blood-based markers associated with biological aging, using an algorithm called PhenoAge to calculate biological age.

The researchers found that people born after 1965 were 17% more likely to exhibit accelerated aging compared to those born between 1950 and 1954. Furthermore, accelerated aging was linked to a higher risk of early-onset cancers, particularly lung, stomach and intestinal, and uterine cancers.

Ruiyi Tian, the graduate student leading the research, theorized that certain tissues, like the lungs, may be more susceptible to aging due to limited regenerative ability. Additionally, inflammation associated with aging may contribute to stomach and intestinal cancers.

While the study highlights significant findings, it has limitations. The researchers couldn’t track participants over time or collect multiple blood samples to assess changing risks. Dr. Cao stressed the need to replicate these findings in more diverse populations and over longer periods.

Dr. Anne Blaes from the University of Minnesota commented on the study’s potential to identify high-risk individuals for early cancer screening. She mentioned the possibility of targeting lifestyle interventions and medications, such as senolytics, to slow down accelerated aging.

Blaes highlighted the importance of this research but noted it’s not yet ready for widespread clinical application. Nonetheless, assessments like PhenoAge could eventually help identify individuals who could benefit most from such interventions.

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