According to recent findings in the cancer journal BMJ cancer, the incidence of tumours worldwide has increased by 79–80%. Given that chronic degenerative diseases, particularly cancer, are common in older people, this increase can be wrongly seen as associated to the increase in life expectancy. However, this study also demonstrated early development of cancer in nearly 3.26 million in younger patients.
The term "early onset" is theoretically used to describe diagnoses for people between the ages of 14 and 49. The fact that the increase in these cases can be traced back to the past 30 years is even more concerning, as stated in the research that looked at data from 204 nations between 1990 and 2019.
Nowadays, cancer is referred as an "environmental genetic pathology" as in fact, in addition to age, lifestyle including smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, and food, as well as exposure to environmental insults, are now considered critical contributing factors. Thus, there is a progressive increase in oncological diseases, even though we achieved considerable progress in diagnosis and screening programs. As a result, it is reasonable to speculate that environmental factors can potentially play an etiological role.
Priority must be given to prevent environmental contamination with substances that could be dangerous to human health as in fact the rapid advancement of technology has increased the emissions of elements like lead, cadmium, and mercury during production processes.
Today, we understand that environmental factors can initiate specific processes in our cells. These processes can change how our genes work, and these modifications can be transferred from one cell to the next as cells grow and divide. Interestingly, these changes don't happen just anywhere but they happen in particular regions of our genetic material. This mechanism can help us in understanding why some diseases might develop earlier than expected.
Notably, issues related to air pollution have particular significance in the field of pneumology. It is well known that air pollution and particulates present from 2.30 to 10 PM are one of the major risk factors for health, resulting in 2.9 million preventable deaths worldwide.
All of these issues become also more urgent for a more effective defense against infectious disease pandemics (like the SARS-CoV-2), whose dynamics of onset and epidemic forms are influenced by a disturbed balance between humans and the ecosystem, and whose detrimental consequences on health, can have a multiplicity of negative effects in the presence of hazardous environmental pollutants.
We can conclude by saying that it is still not possible to stop environmental contamination and the onset of linked diseases, even in the era of personalized therapeutics and technological advancement, which allows us to analyze thousands of genes in a single analysis. Thus, It is essential and urgent to design a multi-level strategy that incorporates politics, health education, and an efficient healthcare system.
Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.