A recent study by researchers investigating the rise of certain cancers among young adults has discovered an intriguing link: accelerated aging is associated with an increased risk of cancer in this age group.

The latest study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2024 examined the impact of increased biological age on early-onset cancers in young adults. Early-onset cancers are those diagnosed in individuals younger than 55 years old.

"Multiple cancer types are becoming increasingly common among younger adults in the United States and globally. Understanding the factors driving this increase will be key to improving the prevention or early detection of cancers in younger and future generations," said Ruiyi Tian from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

To explore how biological age relates to cancer risk, the researchers analyzed information from 148,724 individuals in the U.K. Biobank database. The biological age of the participants was determined using nine blood biomarkers: albumin, alkaline phosphatase, creatinine, C-reactive protein, glucose, mean corpuscular volume, red cell distribution width, white blood cell count, and lymphocyte proportion.

Those participants whose biological age surpassed their actual age were considered to have accelerated aging.

The team first evaluated accelerated aging across various birth cohorts. Individuals born in or after 1965 were found to have a 17% higher likelihood of accelerated aging than those born between 1950 and 1954.

The next step was to evaluate the association between accelerated aging and the risk of early-onset cancers.

"They found that each standard deviation increase in accelerated aging was associated with a 42% increased risk of early-onset lung cancer, a 22% increased risk of early-onset gastrointestinal cancer, and a 36% increased risk of early-onset uterine cancer," AACR stated in a news release.

AACR said accelerated aging did not significantly impact the risk of late-onset lung cancer, but it was associated with a 16% and 23% increased risk of late-onset gastrointestinal and uterine cancers.

"By examining the relationship between accelerating aging and the risk of early-onset cancers, we provide a fresh perspective on the shared etiology of early-onset cancers. 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," Tian said.

However, one limitation of the study is that it only included people from the UK which means that the findings might not be generalizable to groups with different genes, ways of life, and surroundings.