The research, published in the scientific journal BMJ Oncology, uses data from 204 countries. 29 types of cancer were examined. The results showed that the number of breast cancer diagnoses in particular has increased. Most people died from this type of disease.
Breast cancer is also the most common in the Netherlands, followed by skin cancer and colon cancer. 23-year-old Cheyenne Ulf was just 21 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was strange,” she says. “Everyone around me – from the general practitioner to the hospital staff – was in shock.”
The diagnosis came completely unexpectedly. “I didn’t immediately think about the fact that I might not be getting any younger, or what the future held for me. Until I was diagnosed, I didn’t even think that cancer could be the cause of my complaints.”
Compared with the rest of the world, the total number of cancer diagnoses in the Netherlands has increased in recent years by 52% (compared to 80% worldwide), but much less quickly. This relates to the number of diagnoses in the population group aged 15 to 50 years. But experts say the same numbers also indicate a worrying increase.
“One of the most important reasons is population growth,” says Otto Visser, of the Dutch Cancer Registry. “In addition, there is an increasing, measurable association globally among groups of people adopting a Western lifestyle, which increases the risk.”
This Western lifestyle, which is becoming common in more and more places, is one of the most important observations of American research. “Changes in diet and increased use of alcohol and tobacco play a role,” Visser explains. It is also linked to colon cancer. Visser: “It is strongly linked to dietary habits. The more Western the diet, the greater the risk of colon cancer. Increased obesity is also linked to this.”
“On the contrary, you see that the number of lung cancer cases in people under 50 has decreased in the Netherlands as a result of the decrease in the number of smokers,” Visser continues. It is also worth noting that testicular cancer is increasingly being diagnosed. “Testicular cancer is more common in prosperous countries than in poor countries, but the reason for the strong increase in the Netherlands is still unknown,” Visser said.
Cheyenne Ulf’s cancer diagnosis left a deep impression on the 20-something. “Nothing is self-explanatory anymore,” Ulf says. “Things like doing recreational activities and going shopping were no longer possible at that time.” After more than a year of treatment, during which she underwent radiation and chemotherapy, her improvement was announced.
“It was hard to trust my body for a little bit and then it went downhill again, but I’m going back to school and the future looks good. I’m happy I can focus on that,” Ulf said.
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