Addressing Rising Cancer Incidence and Burden in Younger Populations


Primary care physicians cannot afford to dismiss younger people who present with symptoms of cancer in the face of increasing cancer incidence, according to Monique Gary, DO, MSc, FACS.

Monique Gary, DO, MSc, FACS spoke with CancerNetwork® about estimated increases in cancer burden across the world and the potential rises in cancer inequities among underserved populations, and discussed mitigating these disparities from an oncology and primary care perspective.

Gary, a board-certified breast surgical oncologist and medical director of the Grand View Health/Penn Cancer Network cancer program, talked about growing cancer burden in the context of a World Health Organization (WHO) survey that projected future cancer risks. According to findings from the survey, there was an estimated 20 million new cancer cases and 9.7 million deaths from cancer in 2022. Authors estimated that 1 in 5 people will develop cancer, with 1 in 9 men and 1 in 12 women estimated to die from their disease. Additionally, more than 35 million new cancer cases were projected in 2050, representing a 77% increase from the estimated 20 million cases in 2022.

In particular, Gary highlighted a rise in cancer diagnoses among younger patients, including those without family history or hereditary mutations. In addition to environmental factors such as poor air quality and health conditions like obesity, she emphasized health system inequities in certain countries as obstacles that may contribute to rising cancer burden. Due to a lack of financial protection, some patients may lack adequate access to early detection and therapy for cancer.

Part of addressing these inequities, Gary said, requires primary care physicians redefining their perspective of cancer and not dismissing younger people who present with cancer symptoms. In addition to increasing screening for younger populations, she stated that it was necessary for oncologists to lean into available research and encourage patients to enroll on clinical trials.

“It's not just the job of advocacy groups and societies; it's the job of every clinician,” Gary said regarding what needed to be done to address the growth in cancer incidence and disparities. “The individuals who have been disadvantaged already, those [patients] who have a higher mortality and are diagnosed at a later stage of disease…don't have the access. This disparity is going to get wider and wider; we'll do something about it. And that should inspire everyone because there's something for everyone to do.”


World Health Organization. Global cancer burden growing, amidst mounting need for services. February 1, 2024. Accessed March 5, 2024.

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