In recent years, the incidence of cancer in adolescents and young adults (AYA)has been climbing. The onset of cancers occurring before age 40 is growing steadily, particularly with cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver and pancreas. As we move further into the 22nd century and lifespans extend, it is more important than ever to cure young adults, who should otherwise have many decades of life left, with minimal long-term impact of their cancer therapy. Proton therapy is a technology that can help a course of cancer treatment to be just a ripple, instead of the devastating wave treatments have been in years past.
The cause of the increase in cancer incidence in younger people is unclear, but likely multifactorial. Environmental factors, diet, and lifestyle choices all probably contribute. Rates of developing cancer are now higher for each age range than the same age range even 10 years earlier. National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates state that 4.4% of new cancer cases (about 86,000) will occur in the U.S. in individuals aged 15-39 this year. The NCI also estimates over 9,000 cancer deaths in this age range, accounting for 1.5% of all cancer deaths, with the greatest number stemming from breast cancers (13%), brain and central nervous system tumors (11%), colorectal cancers (10%), and leukemia (10%).
The rates of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), also continue to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and it accounts for approximately 42.5 million current cases.